American sprinter Justin Gatlin has accused the media of sensationalizing his rivalry with eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
The 35-year-old secured a surprise victory in the men’s 100m final at IAAF World Championships on Saturday, beating crowd favourite Bolt on his final individual race before retirement.
Gatlin, who has twice been banned for doping offenses, was booed every time he was introduced to the crowd at the London Stadium before the 100m heats, semifinals and final.
Spectators again jeered once it was clear that the 2004 Olympic champion had won gold and ruined Bolt’s farewell.
The crowd’s dissatisfaction was less audible when Gatlin stepped on top of the podium to collect his medal, but some fans did make their displeasure known.
Gatlin is the sport’s most controversial drugs cheat. He was banned for two years in 2001 when he was still at college. He served 12 months of his sentence for taking a banned amphetamine after successfully arguing he had taken the drug as medication for attention deficit disorder.
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In 2006, he was banned for eight years, later reduced to four on appeal, after testing positive for the banned steroid testosterone.
Asked how he felt about the crowd’s reaction in London, Gatlin told CNN: “It leaves me scratching my head.
“I’ve been back in the sport since 2010. I wasn’t booed in 2012, ’11, ’12 — which was still in London — ’13 or ’14 or ’15 and not that much in ’16.
“I understand why, you have black hat, white hat; good, evil, but I think it was sensationalized by the media between two people who have the utmost respect for each other.”
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