Justin Gatlin’s agent has accused Britain of hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to doping.
Speaking in Brussels ahead of Gatlin’s final race of the 2015 season, Renaldo Nehemiah contrasted the BBC’s treatment of his client to other doping offenders, notably British sprinter Linford Christie, who was banned for two years in 1999 after testing positive for nandrolone.
“As much as they want to pile on Justin Gatlin, all I’ve got to do is bring up Linford Christie and they look like fools,” said Nehemiah. “They all defended him, they all thought he was innocent, that he never did anything. See what I’m saying? They come up with every kind of excuse [for Christie]. That to me is very telling.
“Paula Radcliffe’s name has come up and now she’s having to defend herself, so I’d like to see if they’re going to get on her and ask: ‘did you do this?’”
Nehemiah feels Gatlin has also been singled out by British promoters, who have made him unwelcome at their events since his doping ban in 2006, but invite other athletes who have served doping bans.
“In Britain it’s like once you do something in the sport of athletics and doping, it’s an unforgivable act,” says Nehemiah. “Human nature is that you allow someone to rehabilitate, to repent and overcome that, but they don’t let you turn away. They gloat in rubbing your nose in it. If the system can’t break you, then they want to break you.”
He revealed Gatlin has been drug-tested 62 times already this year. “It’s ridiculous,” he said, “but he’s a targeted profile and that’s fine.”
Nehemiah picked out the BBC’s coverage of the American sprinter during last month’s World Athletics Championships for particular criticism. He said the commentary on the men’s 100m final – during which Steve Cram said Usain Bolt’s victory may have saved his sport – was biased.
“He’s reckless,” said Nehemiah of Cram. “Privately you can have that opinion, but when you’re on the national airwaves, you have to be balanced. You can’t manipulate your audience and there were a lot of manipulating comments.”
In Beijing, Cram defended his commentary. “I don’t think we do have to be neutral,” he said. “I think we need to give strong opinions. That comment was not about Justin Gatlin, it was about the whole sport needing its hero to win.”
Nehemiah believes Cram crossed the line, however. “I thought: ‘man, this is really evil,’” he said. “You have every right to call him a drug cheat, but you also have to be responsible.”
Gatlin, meanwhile, will close his season after competing in both the 100m and 200m on Friday night. When asked by The Independent if those who were now giving him a second chance can be sure he was running clean, Gatlin grew indignant. “No comment,” he said. “Who’s out there to reassure? I owe nobody nothing.”
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