Doping scandal gives Bolt-Gatlin showdown new significance

Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:03am EDT
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By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Usain Bolt's showdown with Justin Gatlin was always going to be the most highly anticipated clash of the world athletics championships in Beijing, but with track and field rocked by recent doping allegations it now looks like being a battle for the very soul of the sport.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) hit back robustly at charges it failed to act on hundreds of suspicious tests after data from thousands of blood samples were leaked to media organizations.

Calling the allegations "sensationalist and confusing", the IAAF defended its drugs testing procedures and said it was cooperating with the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in an investigation.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that Gatlin is a proven drugs cheat with two positive tests for banned substances that would have resulted in a life ban had he not cooperated with the authorities.

Bolt, on the other hand, is the most bankable track and field athlete of the modern era.

His clean doping record is as much a part of his huge popularity as his undoubted charisma and dominance of men's sprinting for much of the last seven years.

The prospect, therefore, of Gatlin emerging as champion of the blue riband sprint on the evening of Aug. 23 in Beijing could deal another hammer blow to the credibility of the sport.

"You are talking about the most significant, the best loved, best known, most iconic track and field athlete out there, Usain Bolt," Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, told Reuters.   Continued...

Jul 24, 2015; London, United Kingdom; Usain Bolt (JAM) wins the 100m in 9.87 during the 2015 Sainsbury's Anniversary Games at Olympic Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports