Justin Gatlin won the 100m event at the 2017 World Championships the other night, and 60,000 decent, hardworking, highly knowledgeable British citizens booed him roundly.
Of course I’m being sarcastic, but, I think, very justifiably. Spiked Online magazine in an article posted this morning absolutely nailed the facts about Gatlin’s alleged doping violations:
After all, is Gatlin really deserving of the booing and character assassination? Is he really the dark to Bolt’s light? Yes, he broke the rules, but even that is surely not enough to justify his perpetual damnation. For a start, his first ban, in 2001, when he tested positive for the amphetamine in his attention deficit disorder medication, was dished out reluctantly by the American Arbitration Association and the IAAF, the former of which stated: ‘Mr Gatlin neither cheated nor did he intend to cheat. He did not intend to enhance his performance nor, given his medical condition, did his medication in fact enhance his performance.’ The ban was a technical result of athletics’ strict liability rules, not of Gatlin’s determination to cheat. Even in 2006, when he tested positive for a banned steroid and was given an eight-year ban, cut to four years on appeal, there was a context: an ex-employee with a grievance, and Gatlin’s spotless testing record during the preceding and succeeding weeks and months. (Italics mine.)
I’ve long thought that Gatlin hasn’t gotten a fair shake regarding the doping allegations. Those who know him report that he’s a decent, upstanding guy. While Spiked touched on the unfairness of the boos, I was more forthcoming in my comment on the article:
A hearty high-five to Spiked for getting it absolutely right – nailing it with an extended, level-headed discussion of the facts. And, not only that, also nailing the idiocy of “virtuecracy” in sports, as former president of the American Philosophical Society Joseph Epstein brilliantly called it. I was absolutely delighted with Gatlin’s victory, having previously read the facts of his so-called doping. And not because he beat Usain who’s a really decent, likeable guy – but because he effectively poked his thumb in the eyes of those 60,000 gallant virtuecrats sitting on their fat arses in the seats. Really, what’s dirty is not Gatlin’s victory but the frisson of blood lust that drove the spectators to boo a great athlete. It was not the decent self-restraint of a civilized person. It was not Britain’s finest hour, by a very long shot.
I remember how I enthused to my Dad, after reading about Ty Cobb’s amazing lifetime batting average, how wonderful I thought he was. Dad remained strangely silent. It was only 20 or 30 years later, when I watched Ken Burns’s entertaining documentary Baseball, that I learned of the Cobb’s less admirable qualities. It was a tribute to Dad’s kindness, and his hesitation to judge, that he kept silence about that aspect of Cobb’s career.
My spiritual teacher’s teacher’s comment about those who love to criticize others for their real or imagined faults was mordant: “There are those who like to feel taller by cutting off the heads of those better than themselves.”
Big props to the BBC announcers for ignoring the boos and delivering the race in a calm and dignified manner.