Justin Gatlin searching for forgiveness after return to track

“I just want to be a runner. That’s what I get paid to do,” said Gatlin

Justin Gatlin hopes that he has redeemed himself in the eyes of fans after the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Photo: Greg Baker/Getty Images

Justin Gatlin hopes that he has redeemed himself in the eyes of fans after the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Photo: Greg Baker/Getty Images

 

Justin Gatlin hopes the public will see him as a “human being” rather than a drugs cheat after the World Championships.

Athletics is currently experiencing one of the most difficult times in the sport’s history, with the spate of doping allegations dominating the build-up to the event in Beijing.

Gatlin has been cast as the number one villain having previously failed two drugs tests, leading to a certain sense of relief when Usain Bolt pipped him to gold in the 100 and 200 metres.

The American’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, said his client was unfairly carrying the burden of all drug cheats and the sprinter himself hopes these championships have changed the public’s perception.

“A relief,” Gatlin said, when asked to sum up the event. “A relief because I worked very hard this season.

“I ran, even in regular season, very hard and through all my ups and downs I still came out here.

“I think I showed poise and I showed that I am a human being. I am happy to be running in the Bird’s Nest at a championship and get ready for next year.

“I wouldn’t say (I felt) pressure. I would just say obviously I am the most criticised athlete in track and field.”

Put to him perhaps more so than any sportsman in recent years, Gatlin agreed: “Yeah, exactly. But at the end of the day I am a runner and that’s all I can be.

“I can’t be anything more or anything less. I’ve just got to get up and be Justin Gatlin.

“I said I would go out and run to the ability that I know I am and I don’t back down from that.

“Each year I’ve gotten better because I know I can get better. I just kind of use my blinders and keep going forwards.”

It certainly promises to be another fascinating battle between Gatlin and Bolt at the Olympics next summer, even if the American accepts he is now a “grey wolf”.

There are wisps of silver in 33-year-old’s hair, yet he feels — and indeed his times suggest — a podium-topping display is within reach.

“I have my gold medal at home,” he said. “I have been Olympic champion before.

“I have my medals on my wall and I know what it feels like to be a champion and that is what really is my beacon.

“My beacon to be able to keep going and keep going strong to be at the top. Just to be able to say ‘you know what, I want a taste of that championship again’.”

Victory for Gatlin in Rio de Janeiro would certainly raise some uncomfortable questions, but that is not something that particularly bothers him.

“You know, at the end of the day, I have been a man,” he said.

“I think this championship has shown that I am a human. I stood up, I answered questions. I come to meetings, I haven’t dodged any reporters.

“I just want to be a runner. That’s what I get paid to do.”

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