On Justin Gatlin’s comeback

The track & field wires were buzzing with news of Justin Gatlin’s first 100m race after a four-year doping suspension. Prevented by a European-wide edict discouraging meet organizers from inviting drug offenders to high-level meets, Gatlin competed at a low-key Estonian meet.

The Athens 2004 double gold medalist ran a 10.24s to top a modest field with an equally modest time.

As a track athlete myself, I abhor the use of performance-enhancing substances. It cheapens the sport and taints the achievements of the clean athletes with doubt and suspicion. Olympic-style drug testing is a stringent regimen, based on what I’ve read from athlete blogs and news features, doing much to clean the image of track & field. But then again, drug cheats will always find a way to get an illegal edge, to find other substances below the mainstream radar.

Frankly speaking, I am against the policy of excluding doping offenders from big money meets like the Diamond League, especially those who had served lengthy suspensions. Such is the case for Dwain Chambers and now, Gatlin.

In my opinion, the meet organizers should be more forgiving and realize how difficult it is for a professional athlete to endure suspensions and ostracism. Everyone deserves a second a chance, including our fallen champions.

Chambers, for instance, plays well into his new-found role of the elder statesman of European sprinting. He was magnanimous in defeat. I don’t like Chambers, but I must admit that he acted like a true sportsman when he congratulated Christophe Lemaitre after the 100m final.

I am not an apologist for drug cheating. Punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Let Gatlin and Chambers compete in the big meets! If they fail drug tests in the future, ban them for life. But please, give them a chance to prove themselves yet again, to redeem their tarnished reputations.

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

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