DOHA (AFP) –
American 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist Justin Gatlin, who like Dwain Chambers has been blighted by doping controversy, said he is happy the Briton has received the green light to compete at the London Games.
Gatlin is busy taking further steps towards redemption after completing his own four-year doping ban, having won a second world indoor gold in the 60m in March (after his previous podium-topping display in 2003).
Chambers, who served a two-year ban after testing positive for a banned steroid in 2003, finished third in the world indoors in Istanbul, but received even better news shortly after.
The 34-year-old Briton, long absent from Europe’s leading meets for several years after promoters decided to ban drug cheats, was ruled eligible for selection for the London Olympics after the British Olympic Association’s life-time ban for drugs cheats was overturned.
“As an adult, and as a father as well, I’m happy for him that he (Chambers) is able to provide for his family, to be able to go out there and do again what he loves to do,” Gatlin said ahead of Friday’s Diamond League opener here.
“It’s going to be in his home, in his own backyard so I think it would have been very bitter for him not to be able to compete in the Olympics in his own backyard.”
Gatlin disagreed with the view that drugs cheats should receive automatic life bans from the sport, saying that both he and Chambers had “done their time”.
“Everyone’s set of circumstances have been different, mine’s different from Dwain’s, and people should take the time to read the fine print instead of reading just the bold print in the headlines.
“I feel that whatever time we’ve served, innocent or guilty, we’ve served that time. Taking that privilege (of competing) away from us, after being tested again and again, is unjust.”
Gatlin has happy memories of competing in Doha, where he memorably equalled Jamaican rival Asafa Powell’s then-world record of 9.77 seconds in a Grand Prix meeting in 2006.
The record was later rescinded after his doping violation came to light, but the American insisted he had no bitter-sweet thoughts.
His memories were of “very pleasant, warm emotions”, the 30-year-old Brooklyn native said. “The night I broke the record was a magical night.
“In the first round I equalled my personal best, and coming back knowing the second round could be faster with better effort, I could see history being made on the track.
“Doha’s a very special place for me and definitely an important part of my journey.”
He added: “Hopefully coming into this race in a couple of days I can do the same thing. It’s a very good stepping stone going towards London with the fast track here.”
Gatlin said he was unfazed going up against Jamaicans Powell and Nesta Carter, who claimed silver in the world indoors, and also French hope Jimmy Vicaut and American duo Darvis Patton and Michael Rodgers.
“Being able to show everyone I could win a championship, regardless whether indoor or outdoor, against some good opposition, and put another gold medal under my name was a good stepping point coming into the outdoor season,” he said.
“It wasn’t surreal but more a welcome home party. It told me you’re on the right track.”
Jamaica’s world record holder and Olympic champion Usain Bolt raced last week at the Kingston Invitational and will make his European bow at the second-tier meet in Ostrava, Czech Republic, later this month.
But Gatlin insisted that Bolt was merely human, albeit acknowledging his undoubted sprinting prowess.
“You have to be a student of the game. You watch for their weaknesses and what makes them the great athletes they are,” he said.
“Watching Usain Bolt perform great feats is breath-taking, but at the same time he’s still a man and he breathes the same air as I breathe and takes two steps to get to the line like I do.”