The men’s 100m race attracted so much attention in the buildup to the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Beijing. It was dubbed the race between good and evil, the defining 10 seconds for a sport that is perceived to be in dire need of redemption. The integrity of the sport was laid on the shoulder of Usain Bolt, the immaculate athlete and as it turned out; his 6.5 feet frame handled the weight well. He got the win and everything is right again in the world of athletics or so it seems.
I’m a huge fan of Bolt and I’m very glad he won because of a truth, his victory is significant for the sport. Athletics needed Usain Bolt to come through. But be that as it may, I feel enormous pity for Justin Gatlin.
The humiliation and unending evil shaming Justin had to endure in the buildup and even during the Championships is very distressing. Here’s a guy who all he did for the past two years was show up on the tracks winning race after race and setting records here and there. Gatlin practically saved the sport from the obscurity it was headed for in the wake of Bolt’s nagging injuries which rendered him a no show but see what he got in return.
Doping is very bad and unacceptable and we all know Justin was punished for it. A four-year ban at the time he was supposed to peak naturally is a just enough punishment I dare to say; if not he will be not allowed on the track by the Athletics Federation.
I condemn doping absolutely, but until the IAAF comes up with the strictest sanction and that would mean an outright life ban for any athlete caught doping, I think it will be unfair to continue treating one-time offenders like dung.
To err is human, we all commit errors and make mistakes on a daily basis but we move on, don’t we? Nobody should be defined forever by a single mistake they make. How would you feel if every time you show up in a gathering, everybody keeps bringing up your past failure and makes it a matter arising? Surely, you have committed at least a single error in the past, haven’t you?
I am not making a case for cheating here. All I’m saying is that nobody deserves to be ridiculed and disrespected because of their past, certainly not a repentant athlete who has raced clean for more than a couple years and is probably more tested than any of his counterparts out there.
Just for your information, aside Gatlin, two other sprinters in that 100m final lineup at the world Championships are one-time drug offenders too; Asafa Powell, Bolt’s countryman and Tyson Gay. But somehow, Gatlin has been singled out to bear the brunt for all one-time drug offenders perhaps because he was on a 28-race winning streak. I reckon him being unbelievably good raises both suspicion and outrage.
I condemn the shaming of Justin Gatlin by the media, an error, a mistake; a misdeed should not become the single and absolutely not the definitive story of anybody.
We are humans, we are capable of change, we bounce back and that is also worthy of celebration. However, if you cannot celebrate positive change in an individual, don’t go ahead hating and shaming them at every opportunity you get, trust me, it is hard enough already for them as it is.