Dennis Mitchell

The truth: Justin Gatlin, from despair to destiny

The truth: Justin Gatlin, from despair to destiny

LONDON — They introduced Justin Gatlin to the Olympic Stadium crowd here Sunday evening, just before they put a gold medal around his neck, before The Star-Spangled Banner played in his honor, and along with some cheers a chorus of boos rang out.

The cheers — great. The boos — this fell somewhere between disappointing and reprehensible. Olympic-style sport is not the English Premier League, the NFL or NBA. It is supposed to be about promoting three key values: friendship, excellence and respect.

Saturday’s men’s 100-meter final immediately became arguably the biggest gold-medal victory in the history of the event. Gatlin defeated the sport’s biggest legend, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. It’s how the race will forever be remembered: who beat Bolt, and in Bolt’s last individual 100? Gatlin. And who, before Saturday, was the last guy ever to beat Bolt? Gatlin, in Rome in 2013.

Justin Gatlin: an all-time tale of redemption and respect

Justin Gatlin: an all-time tale of redemption and respect

LONDON — Act II of the morality play shall now commence, and if there is justice in this world, let it rain Justin Gatlin’s way. He is deserving, more than deserving, of your appreciation and, more, your respect.

A few days ago, before the start of these 2017 IAAF world championships, Usain Bolt had said he was both “unbeatable” and “unstoppable,” adding, “Without a doubt. If I show up at a championship, you know that I’m ready to go.”

Without a doubt, the track and field establishment wanted Bolt — king of the scene, a “genius,” according to IAAF president Sebastian Coe — to win Saturday night’s 100 meters, Bolt’s last hurrah, the final competitive 100 the greatest sprinter humankind has ever seen had said he intended to run.

On Justin Gatlin: 'The man is just good'

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EUGENE — Justin Gatlin cruised Sunday to victory in the men’s 100-meter dash at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, setting in motion the next chapter in a long-running drama about the interplay of reality and perception mixed with the unlimited possibilities and enormous potential of redemption.

Or, not.

Gatlin, who is 34, ancient by sprint standards, ran 9.8 seconds to defeat Trayvon Bromell, who turns 21 next week, and Marvin Bracy, who is 22 and a former Florida State wide receiver who three years ago gave up football to run track. Bromell is the 2015 world bronze medalist; Bracy is the 2014 world indoor silver medalist at 60 meters.

Bromell ran 9.84, Bracy 9.98. The outcome was never seriously in doubt. Gatlin got off to his usual solid start and ran clean and hard through the line.

“I have new peers,” Gatlin said. “I have to be able to evolve with that. These young talented guys keep pushing me and I keep pushing them.”

Justin Gatlin celebrates his Trials victory // Getty Images

Justin and Jace Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell and Marvin Bracy after the race

The 100-meter final highlighted a series of finals under brilliant blue skies and before a solid crowd of 22,424 at historic Hayward Field.

In the women’s 400, Allyson Felix, running on a bum ankle, blew by the other seven women in the homestretch like they were standing still to win in 49.68. Phyllis Francis went 49.94, Natasha Hastings 50.17.

The call on NBC — “Here comes Allyson Felix! Felix just goes right by them!” — hardly does justice to her finishing kick. It was just — outrageous. As she crossed the line, she said, “Thank you, lord.”

“That’s why she’s great,” the NBC analyst Ato Boldon said. “Because somehow she always finds a way.”

“It’s up there,” Felix said afterward when asked to rate how the race ranks in her career. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a race with so much against me.”

Felix’s quest to qualify in the 200 as well gets underway with prelims Friday: “My goals haven’t changed at all.”

Allyson Felix running to victory in the 400 // Getty Images

In the decathlon, Ashton Eaton earned the chance to go for back-to-back Olympic gold. Never really threatened, he took first with 8750 points. With Trey Hardee out because of injury, Jeremy Taiwo took second, with 8425. Zach Ziemek got third, 8413.

The men’s 400 saw LaShawn Merritt go 43.97, the eighth time he has broken 44 and, as well, fastest time in the world this year. Gil Roberts took second in 44.73, David Verburg third in 44.82.

In Rio, Merritt, the Beijing 2008 gold medalist in the 400, likely will resume his rivalry with Kirani James of Grenada, the London 2012 winner. “I trained very hard for this season,” Merritt said. “I wanted to go out there and win another Olympic Trials.”

The 32-year-old mother of three, Chaunte Lowe, won the women’s high jump, at 2.01 meters, or 6 feet, 7 inches — Rio will be her fourth Olympics. The 18-year-old Vashti Cunningham, the 2016 world indoor champion, took second, at 1.97, 6-5 1/2; she becomes the youngest U.S. track and field Olympian in 36 years. Inika McPherson got third, 1.93, 6-4.

“The high jump has never had this much depth,” Lowe said. “I had to train my butt off every day.”

In the men’s long jump, Jeffrey Henderson ripped off a fourth-round jump of 8.59, 28-2 1/4, for the win. In the next round, Jarrion Lawson went 8.58, 28-1 3/4.

Will Claye, the London 2012 long jump bronze medalist (and triple jump silver medalist), took third, with a fifth-round 8.42, 27-7 1/2. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin finished seventh.

Marquis Dendy matched Claye’s jump but Claye held the second-longest jump tiebreaker. Dendy, meanwhile, pulled up limping after Round 4 and passed on his last two jumps.

Even so, and this makes for emphatic evidence of why the rules of track and field can be so trying for the average fan -- while Claye is the third-place finisher, Dendy is the third Rio qualifier.

USA Track & Field explains:

"Will Claye and Marquis Dendy each had marks of 8.42m/27-7.5 today with Claye holding the better secondary mark to secure third place. However, Claye’s best jump today was wind-aided and his best legal mark since May 1 of last year was an 8.14m/26-8.50 from the Trials qualifying round on Saturday, which is one centimeter away from the Olympic standard. There is no standard chasing at the track & field trials, thus Dendy is the third qualifier for Rio."

Moving along:

In a women’s 100 final that saw five of the eight go under 11 seconds, English Gardner ran to victory in 10.74. Tianna Bartoletta and Tori Bowie crossed in 10.78. Bartoletta on Saturday had qualified for the Rio women’s long jump, taking second behind Brittney Reese.

At the line, left to right: Gardner, Bartoletta, Bowie // Getty Images

“Honestly, I remember 2012,” Gardner said, recalling her seventh-place finish here at Hayward four years ago, when she ran 11.28. “I sat in the car. And I cried my eyes out. I came to the realization I never wanted to feel that feeling again.”

“I have to conquer myself,” Bartoletta said. “One of the things I studied between jumps and between rounds is that conquering myself is the only victory that matters.”

She also said, “It really comes down to mental preparation or execution. Physics does not care how you feel or if you’re having a bad day emotionally. All you have to do is execute.”

Gardner added with a smile, “Our relay is going to be nasty,” and in this context “nasty” means good.

Justin Gatlin can far too often be portrayed in the worldwide press as nasty, and in this instance nasty means nasty.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the celebratory news conference, he brought his son, Jace, who just turned 6. The proud father said, “I’m glad my son is here.”

The victory in Sunday’s 100 sends Gatlin to his third Olympic Games and, presumably, his fourth major championship run against Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

In the semis, Gatlin ran 9.83, the fastest time in the world this year. In the next heat, Bromell answered with a 9.86.

In the final about 90 minutes later, Gatlin, in Lane 3, was fully in control. He knew when he had crossed that he had won, flashing a left-handed No. 1 to the crowd.

Tyson Gay took fifth, in 10.03.

Lawson, having just taken second in the long jump, lined it up just a few minutes later in Lane 1 of the 100 final. He got seventh, 10.07.

When he was 22, Gatlin won the 2004 Athens Olympic 100.

By then, he had served a year off after taking Adderall. He took it to help stay focused for midterms at Tennessee. A stipulated agreement — between Gatlin and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency — declared that Gatlin “neither cheated nor intended to cheat.”

In 2006, Gatlin — training with Trevor Graham, who would emerge as one of the central figures in the BALCO scandal — tested positive for testosterone.

To make a very long story as simple as possible, Gatlin would serve four years off for this second strike — even though he and supporters have long insisted, with sound reasoning, that the Adderall matter ought not to be held against him in a significant way, and even though it has long remained unclear how Gatlin came to test positive in 2006 for testosterone.

Jeff Novitzky, the federal agent who helped break the BALCO matter, would later testify that he had asked Gatlin if he “used any prohibited substances.” The answer: “His answer was no, never knowingly.” Novitzky added: “… I have not obtained any evidence of his knowing receipt and use of banned substances.”

It was during Gatln’s four years off that Bolt not only burst onto the scene but became the international face of track and field.

Bolt at the Jamaican Trials // Ayako Oikawa

Not counting the 200 or relays:

Bolt is the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 100 champion. He also won the 100 at the world championships in 2009 (Berlin), 2013 (Moscow) and 2015 (back in Beijing).

Over the years, Bolt seemingly could do no wrong. Gatlin, meantime, was often painted — inappropriately — as a two-time loser instead of what he more accurately is: a victim of circumstances.

Bolt and Gatlin squared off In those Olympic and worlds 100s in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

In 2012, Gatlin got bronze.

In 2013, silver.

Last summer in Beijing, Gatlin had the race — but then couldn’t hold his form powering toward the finish line, stumbling just enough to allow Bolt to get by. Bolt finished in 9.79, Gatlin in 9.80.

For years, the British press in particular has savaged Gatlin.

“He’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation — he may even have saved his sport,” the BBC commentator and former world champion Steve Cram exulted as Bolt crossed ahead of Gatlin in the 100. Many in the British press had painted the race as nothing less than a clash of good and evil.

At the Jamaican Trials, which went down over the past several days, Bolt pulled out with what has been described as a “Grade 1” hamstring tear.

It’s not exactly that his participation in Rio is in doubt. Pretty much everyone in track and field expects Bolt to be there.

The issue is what kind of shape Bolt will be in. Gatlin, here, said he ran through the same injury at the 2013 worlds — managing, he said, to be at maybe 75 percent.

https://twitter.com/usainbolt/status/749076079462277121

“He’ll be very fit to be in Rio,” assuming Jamaican officials select him, Ricky Simms, Bolt’s agent who is in Eugene, said Sunday.

Of course he will be selected.

If Bolt is healthy — enough — to make the Rio final, what if Gatlin — finally — prevails?

Is the world ready to accept Justin Gatlin as he is?

As an intelligent, eloquent guy with deep family ties? Who happily signs autographs and poses for pictures and selfies with kids and grown-ups alike?

As a man who has made mistakes — who hasn’t — but has fought, and hard, to come back.

As a man who not only loves competing for the American team but cherishes the opportunity to do so?

In answering those questions, compare and contrast the case of the whistleblower Yulia Stepanova.

The sport’s international governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, has banned Russia’s track and field team amid explosive allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The 800-meter runner Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping agency doping control officer, served as the two primary whistleblowers in a German television documentary that in December 2014 brought the matter to worldwide attention.

A few days ago, the IAAF gave Stepanova permission to compete in Rio as a “neutral” athlete.

Rune Andersen, who leads the IAAF task force investigating the Russian matter, in recommending Stepanova’s case be “considered favorably,” had also said, “Any individual athlete who has made an extraordinary contribution to the fight against doping in sport should also be able to apply.”

The matter is far from settled. At any rate, Stepanova might return to international competition as soon as this week’s European championships. She and her husband, and their young son, are now living in exile in the United States.

Consider, meantime, the way the Guardian — which among the British papers has actually been relatively restrained in its descriptions of Gatlin — described the latest IAAF turn in the Stepanova case.

The first paragraph said she “bravely and spectacularly blew the whistle on widespread doping inside her country.”

But wait.

She “bravely and spectacularly” went to the press only after she got tagged with a two-year doping suspension, and then, again to simplify a complex story, after being referred by a World Anti-Doping Agency official.

A report due out in a couple weeks is likely to provide even more damning evidence against the Russian sport structure.

Even so, the Stepanov allegations have yet to be tested in the crucible of any formal inquiry, and in particular on cross-examination. They are living in the United States — who is paying the family’s bills, and why? Vitaly Stepanov sent more than 200 emails to WADA — who sends 200 emails about anything? Wouldn’t a good lawyer love to ask if 200 emails sounds like someone with maybe issues?

Gatlin’s matters, meanwhile, have been thoroughly tested, and under oath.

In 2013, after she found out she had tested positive, Yulia Stepanova stated making secret recordings of her meetings with sports officials. In exactly the same way, as soon as he found out he tested positive in 2006, Gatlin went to the authorities and volunteered to try to get evidence against Graham. To be clear: he cooperated with Novitzky and the feds, in all making some dozen undercover phone calls

It would stand to reason that Gatlin got a break, right?

No.

The majority of the three-person arbitration panel hearing Gatlin’s case took note of the “extensive, voluntary and unique nature” of his assistance.

But the rule then at issue: it had to be “substantial assistance” that led directly to an anti-doping agency discovering or establishing doping by another person.

So — because Graham didn’t cop to anything on the phone with Gatlin, Gatlin got no break.

Compare — because the Stepanovs went to WADA and then got passed on to the press, she gets a break?

Moreover — Gatlin’s current coach, Dennis Mitchell, testified for federal prosecutors against Graham.

Still Gatlin — and, by extension, Mitchell — get no break in the court of public opinion, and Yulia Stepanova is brave and spectacular?

Where are the calls to ban Stepanova for life — like so many would-be moralists have done with Gatlin?

This is all a logical disconnect.

Because if Yulia Stepanova is brave and spectacular, isn’t Justin Gatlin, too?

“Just seeing what he has done over the years, and what kind of person he is,” Bromell said Sunday, referring to Gatlin, “that’s why I would like to have someone like him as a mentor. A lot of people don’t know how good of a man this guy is.”

He said a moment later, “The man is just good.”

Justin Gatlin, on track for 2016

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EUGENE, Oregon — Before Saturday's big race at the 42nd Prefontaine Classic, the men's 100 meters, Justin Gatlin's coach, Dennis Mitchell, offered just a few words.

Nothing about times. No 9.5-craziness, no records this or that.

"Coach just gave me a handshake and said, 'Lay one down,' " Gatlin would say later.

Gatlin laid down a wind-aided 9.88 for the win. This was a no-doubter. Gatlin crossed the line with his left arm raised, index finger pointed to the sky: No. 1. At least on a Saturday in May in Eugene. More, here in Eugene next month at the U.S. Trials and presumably in August in Rio, to come.

Justin Gatlin meets the press after Saturday's 100

The men's 100 capped a day of sun-splashed performances at the Prefontaine Classic, the one and only major U.S. outdoor stop on the international track and field circuit, with athletes aiming to round into shape for the 2016 Summer Games and, for the Americans, the Trials, back here at historic Hayward Field.

The 2016 Pre, before 13,223, termed by house announcers a sell-out crowd -- not so much, as pockets and patches of bare seats throughout the stands would attest -- marked the second act of a four-part track and field drama this year in Oregon. Part one: the 2016 world indoors in March in Portland. Part three: the 2016 NCAA championships, in about 10 days. Part four: the U.S. Olympic Trials, in late June and early July.

What organizers called a "sell-out": bare spots in the stands at the end of the main straightaway

A number of stars proved no-shows at the 2016 Pre, citing injury or otherwise. Among them: U.S. sprint champion Allyson Felix, American long-distance runner and Olympic silver-medalist Galen Rupp and Ethiopian distance standout Genzebe Dibaba.

Those who did turn up put on, especially for May in an Olympic year, a first-rate show:

In the women's 100 hurdles, American Keni Harrison ripped off an American-record 12.24, the second-fastest time ever. Only Yordanka Donkova of Bulgaria, in 12.21 in 1988, has ever run faster. Brianna Rollins, who had held the American record, 12.26 in 2013, finished second Saturday in 12.53.

Emma Coburn also set an American record, in the women's 3k steeplechase, 9:10.76; Bahrain's Ruth Jebet won the race in 8:59.97, just four-hundredths ahead of Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya. American Boris Berian won the men's 800 in a convincing 1:44.2; just a couple years ago was slinging hamburgers at McDonald's; in March, he won the world indoor 800; a few days ago, the Berian saga took on yet another dimension over a contract dispute with Nike.

In the women's 100, American English Gardner ran 10.81 for the win, with two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica eighth and last, in 11.18; in the women's 200, American Tori Bowie ran 21.99, best in the world in 2016, with Holland's Dafne Schippers second in a really-not-that-close 22.11.

Kirani James of Grenada and LaShawn Merritt of the United States added another chapter to their extraordinary rivalry in the men's 400, James winning in 44.22, Merritt just behind in 44.39.

Jamaica's Omar McLeod continued his 2016 dominance in the men's 110 hurdles, winning in 13.06; Americans went 1-2-3 in the men's 400 hurdles (Michael Tinsley with the victory) and the triple jump (Will Claye going 17.56 meters, or 57 feet, 7 1/2 inches on his sixth and final jump, celebrating with a leap over the hurdle set up for the women's steeplechase, only to see Christian Taylor, next, go 17.76 meters, or 58-3 1/4, the two of them meeting after for a quick embrace).

In the men's javelin, Africans went 1-2: Ihab Adbelrahman of Egypt went 87.37, or 286-08; Kenya's Julius Yego took second in 84.68, 277-10.

Without Dibaba in the women's 1500, Faith Chepngeti Kipyegon of Kenya ran a Hayward Field record, 3:56.41. The prior mark: 3:57.05, from Hellen Obiri of Kenya. On Friday evening, Obiri, running this year in the Pre at the 5k, won in 14:32.02.

Also Friday evening, Brittney Reese won the women's long jump, in 6.92 meters, 22 feet 8 1/2 inches; Joe Kovacs the men's shot put, in 22.13 meters, 72-7 1/4; Alysia Montaño-Johnson the women's 800, in 2:00.78; and Mo Farah, the British distance star, the men's 10,000 meters, in 26:53.71. The top five guys in that 10k all crossed in under 27 minutes.

And then there was Gatlin, who figures heading into the Trials and Rio to have the spotlight trained on him, big time -- both for who he is and how, for most people who know about Gatlin's realistic quest to take down Usain Bolt, the way it all turned out in 2015.

At the 2015 Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, two weeks before last year’s Pre, Gatlin went 9.74. Only four guys have — ever — gone faster: Bolt, 9.58 in Berlin in 2009; the American Tyson Gay, 9.69, Shanghai, 2009; 2011 100 world champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica, also 9.69, at the Athletissima meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, 2012; Asafa Powell, also Jamaican and the first racer in history to run sub-10 more than 100 times, 9.72, Athletissima, 2008.

No less than five times in 2015 did Gatlin run faster than 9.79.

Back for the 2015 worlds at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, where Bolt had raced to Olympic gold in 2008, Gatlin settled into the blocks in Lane 7 with a win streak that stretched past two dozen.

The year, and even the rounds, pointed to Gatlin. He had cruised through, winning his semifinal in 9.77. Bolt had stumbled in his semi, collecting himself late to win in 9.96.

Then, though, came the electricity of the final itself.

Gatlin got off to a slow-ish start. Even so, midway through the race, Gatlin held the lead.

Midway through the race, Justin Gatlin had the lead in the 2015 worlds 100 over Usain Bolt, in yellow jersey // Getty Images

Then, though, came another stumble.

This time, it was Gatlin, trying to hold off Bolt, in Lane 5.

Maybe 20 meters from the line, Gatlin lost his form.

Bolt won, in 9.79.

Gatlin took second, in 9.80, one-hundredth of a second back.

A stumble about 20 meters out cost Gatlin the race, with Bolt, Lane 5, winning by one-hundredth of a second // Getty Images

Asked Friday at a pre-Pre news conference on how many occasions he has watched the 2015 worlds final, Gatlin said, “Countless times. I can’t lie about it,” adding, “I have to make sure I study what I did wrong and also what I did right, and also my opponents as well.

“It was,” he said, “a learning curve for me.”

Sure. But, specifically, how?

“One thing I learned,” he said, “is you can’t be too greedy in trying to get speed. There’s a certain point in the race where it’s humanly impossible for a person to get any faster. So, for me, it’s just to maintain that speed, stay in control of my technique and just go straight through the finish line.”

And this:

The American sprinter Mike Rodgers typically gets out to a fabulous start. Powell performs the race's technical transitions as well as anyone, ever. The Canadian Andre DeGrasse and Gay are going to, in Gatlin’s words, “come like a bat out of hell toward the end of the race.”

“So,” he said, “these are things that you predict — weeks before the race even starts.”

Gatlin didn’t run the 100 at the 2015 Pre. Instead, he focused on the 200, which he won in a — to use his word —blazing 19.68. Gay won the 100 in a comeback statement, 9.98.

For Gatlin, by design, aiming toward the 2016 U.S. Trials and Rio, this Olympic year has gotten off to a considerably slower start.

“The 100 meters,” Gatlin said, “it’s a crazy race. It’s about balance. You don’t want to take too much away from your start and have a powerful finish, because now you’re behind. So you have to have a good solid start. You have to have a good strong finish.”

He also said, “Going into this season, you see me having good starts. The times haven’t been as blazing as last year. But you can see the strength of me coming on at the end.

“I think maybe in Beijing,” meaning this year’s race, at the May 18 IAAF World Challenge event, “Mike Rodgers had a step or two on me coming out of the blocks. I just stayed calm and just commanded the race the second half.”

Gatlin won that 100 in 9.94, Rodgers crossing in 9.97.

“It’s like blinking,” Gatlin said of the various parts of a well-executed 100.

Meaning this:

The ordinary person typically doesn’t think about blinking but, rather, just does it: “Blink, blink, blink,” he said. In the same way, the time to process what the component parts of that well-run 100, and how and why, is in training. When it’s race day, it’s go time.

Just go. That’s how you run the 100 in the blink of an eye.

Gatlin went on, crafting a new analogy, referring to the champion boxer:  “I’m taking it almost like a Floyd Mayweather kind of — taking it round by round,” adding that he was “learning my technique, learning my craft, sharpening my skills and have my strongest round be the last round, the finals. Last year,” another boxing reference, ”I came out like a Mike Tyson — just swinging, knocking everything down.

“This year, I really — on a time level — don’t have a point to prove. I’ve shown the world I can run consistent, fast time. I’m strong, and I’m dominant. So this time I just want to make sure I get to the big dance, and I’m ready.”

The world lead coming into Saturday’s race at venerable Hayward Field in the 100: 9.91, by Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, at a meet April 22 in Gainesville, Florida.

Gatlin after the 100 with NBC's Lewis Johnson

And with fans, who waited patiently in the sun for autographs and selfies

Gatlin, in Lane 3 on Saturday, broke well, keeping an eye of sorts on Ameer Webb, in Lane 6, who has a solid Hayward history and had been running well, obviously in shape, early this year.

By halfway, the race was essentially over, assuming Gatlin could keep it together.

No problem.

The wind, which had been under the legal limit of 2.0 meters per second, blew just above during the race: 2.6. That made Gatlin's 9.88 wind-aided. After flashing that No. 1 sign, Gatlin jogged with the finish line tape wrapped around his neck, like a Bar Mitzvah streamer -- all to big applause.

Powell took second, in 9.94; Gay, third, in 9.98.

Rodgers got fourth, in 9.99; Ogunode, fifth, in 10.02; Webb, sixth, 10.03. China's Bingtian Su took seventh, 10.04. DeGrasse, who tied for third at least year's worlds, came up eighth, 10.05.

"I think all my races this year have been really calm and really relaxed," Gatlin said afterward, clutching a pair of Kenyan flag-colored flip-flops that a fan had thrown him.

Relaying the essence of many discussions with Mitchell, his coach, Gatlin has sought to make the course for 2016 elegantly simple:

“We just want to win. That is the motto for this year: just win. You know, it’s not about predicting what time is going to win, or [is going to get] the gold medal. It’s about getting on that line, competing, executing your race. Once you come across the line, you look across at the board and can be shocked like everyone else at the good time.”

That is yet more evidence of maturity and experience talking.

A lot of water has run under a lot of bridges since Gatlin was just 22 and won gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics in the 100, in 9.85.

In February, he turned 34.

The “20-something Justin was just happy to be there,” he said.

“You know, I think the 30-something Justin understands that now he is leaving behind a legacy — for himself, his family and his fans. So it’s something that’s a little bit more important. When I step to the line, I’ve got to make sure I’m not too antsy but at the same time not too calm, and not suck myself into the ambiance of the stadium and celebrating before the race is even over.”

Can't we all just -- lower the volume?

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Attention, all you sanctimonious, moralistic, smarter-than-everyone-else know-it-alls who traffic in rumor, half-truth, character assassination and worse when it comes to USA Track & Field, and in particular the effort to win Olympic and world relay medals. Do yourselves a favor, along with everyone who values civility, dialogue and tolerance: give it a rest.

Under the guise of anonymity, the stuff that gets said, and in particular written, about USATF and — now, in the aftermath of last week’s Penn Relays, where one of two U.S. men’s 4x100 teams again had a problem exchanging the baton — is way, way, way beyond the bounds of decency, fair comment and constructive criticism.

To be blunt: a botched handoff is not armageddon.

Tyson Gay, in red, struggles to hand off to Isiah Young at the 2016 Penn Relays // photo courtesy Penn Relays

Nearly 18 years of writing about the Olympic movement has led to a great many track meets. Across those years, U.S. relay difficulties have been duly noted. At the same time, fans and self-professed experts rarely understand or appreciate the real-world difficulties that go into executing the relays, especially a bang-bang event like the 4x100.

If the result is not gold, there’s typically just a lot of yelling and name-calling. It’s as if the United States ought to win every single time simply because that is the American way.

That is thoroughly unrealistic.

And the time has come for everyone to take a deep breath and appreciate the three core Olympic values: friendship, excellence and respect.

In this instance, especially: respect.

Five of the six U.S. relay teams at the 2016 Penn Relays were winners. Five of six.

USATF high performance director Duffy Mahoney // photo courtesy USATF

That sort of mark underscores the goal, as articulated by Duffy Mahoney, USA Track and Field’s chief of sport performance:

“We are trying to build a better mousetrap. We are trying to take a difficult situation and do the best job we can, or a better job, at optimizing the chance of medal attainment,” in particular at the Olympics and world championships.

As the International Olympic Committee notes in a new promotional series, "Sport is respect. It's not all about winning."

Since he took over as USATF chief executive four years ago, Max Siegel has expressly sought to lower the volume of the conversation in and around the sport. He has preached, and practiced, dialogue and cooperation.

So, too, the current board chair, Steve Miller.

The results of Siegel’s first four years are, by any measure, remarkable:

Up, and in a big way: annual budget (to more than $35 million in 2016), federation assets, prize money for elite athletes, partnership agreements, merchandise sales, USATF.tv users and page views.

You can’t be creative at the leadership level when, as the sport used to continually find itself, you’re figuratively scrounging from paycheck to paycheck. A 23-year Nike deal, worth in the neighborhood of $500 million, means the federation finally has financial stability.

USATF chief executive Max Siegel at a news conference in Portland, Ore., in advance of the 2016 world indoor championships // Getty Images

As it happens, beginning in 2016 roughly $1.8 million is due to be distributed to athletes over and above USATF tier and development funding, and other programs. What that means: $10,000 for making the Olympic team as well as bonuses of $10,000, $15,000 and $25,000 for Olympic medals. A top-tier athlete who wins a national title and competes for the national team but does not medal: base pay, $45,000. That same athlete, with an Olympic gold: USATF support of $95,000.

Internationally, the USATF board of directors made the right call in nominating Stephanie Hightower for the policy-making executive council of the sport's international governing body, the IAAF, in place of Bob Hersh. She led a USATF sweep at IAAF balloting last August that also saw the election of Britain’s Seb Coe as president.

Track and field is not — repeat, not — the NFL. Nor the NBA or MLB. Nor even the NHL.

Athletes are not unionized. They are independent contractors. You want the American way? Every athlete is, to a significant extent, his or her own brand — with the exception of certain national-team events, such as the Olympics and, recently, the Penn Relays, where it’s entirely reasonable for Nike to want to appropriately and reasonably leverage its sponsorship. That’s one of the elements it’s paying for, right?

The disconnect is fundamental: track and field is perhaps the only sport in the U.S. Olympic landscape in which there remains a dissident cohort seemingly hell-bent on destroying anything and everything in the pursuit of precisely the sort of petty, personality-oriented politics that used to wrack the U.S. Olympic Committee before a 2003 governance change.

Some of this is tied to the very same underlying issue that for years vexed the USOC: the battle for authority between paid staff and volunteers.

Some of it, especially in the relay landscape, involves rival shoe companies vying for influence, position or an uncertain something vis-a-vis Nike.

Some of it is just nasty and wrong.

Siegel, who is the only African-American chief executive of a national governing body in the U.S. Olympic picture, was targeted in recent months by racially charged emails. So were others at the Indianapolis-based federation. The matter has drawn the attention of law enforcement.

It’s intriguing to draw a contrast between, on the one hand, the almost-total lack of public condemnation from some of the sport’s most outspoken activists after those emails were published and, on the other, the loud voices that proved keenly critical of Siegel and USATF in the aftermath of a rules violation at the 2014 U.S. national indoors.

Further disconcerting: what gets written on message boards at sites such as Lets Run and a Facebook page entitled “I’m tired of USATF and IAAF crippling our sport.” At least on Facebook there are names attached to the comments. The stuff on Let’s Run is so frequently laced with such venom, almost always posted via pen names, that it’s a wonder some enterprising lawyer hasn’t already thought to ask what’s appropriate.

At this year’s Penn Relays, U.S. runners Tyson Gay and Isiah Young could not cleanly execute the third, and final, hand-off in the men’s 4x100. This led to a Let’s Run message-board string relating to the U.S. relays coach entitled, “Fire Dennis Mitchell Now.” The site highlighted the link on its homepage; as of Thursday, five days after the race, the link still sat on the page.

The Let's Run link to a message string sparked by the men's 4x1 at the Penn Relays

In and of itself, the message-string headline is innocuous. But the discussion underneath veers off to allegations of various sorts about Mitchell. Some of it is arguably the worst kind of hearsay. Almost none of it deserves to be aired in a public forum without corroboration and real evidence.

Late in his career as an active athlete, Mitchell served time off for doping. That fact tends to enrage his detractors. Typically, they fail to note, or to care, that the Olympic movement’s rules when it comes to doping make expressly clear that everyone deserves second chances. Especially a guy who was team captain at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Moreover, in 2008, Mitchell testified for the federal government in its case against North Carolina-based coach Trevor Graham, one of the central figures in the BALCO scandal.

As Mitchell said in a 2015 interview, “I was a witness for the good guys. I wasn’t prosecuted. I wasn’t threatened. I wasn’t put on trial for lying. I was a 20-minute witness for the federal government to tell everything about my life and his life that would incriminate him. That’s what I did.”

Mitchell said, referring to the coach-athlete relationship, “I want my athletes to understand I am the caretaker of their dreams. I have no options. It’s all due to what I have been through. It’s because I have been with a coach who has been the opposite — who doesn’t care about your life, your family, your dreams.”

He also said, “I am on this earth to fulfill a life of servitude,” adding, “I am here to coach. I am here to be a beacon to others who are lost. I am comfortable with that. My job is not to be a CEO. I am a nuts-and-bolts guy. That is what God has given me … he didn’t give me the great ability to be other than I am. I have embraced it. It hasn’t come easily. At one time, it was taken away.”

At recent Olympic Games and world championships, the list is long of U.S. relay missed handoffs, disqualifications and other errors. Indeed, after the 2008 Beijing Games, USATF went so far as to commission a report that in significant part sought to identify root causes and fixes.

In the 2008 relay program, on the men's side, of the six guys who ended up in the 4x1 relay pool, only one had run his leg in any of the three relevant meets (Stockholm, London, Monaco) before Beijing: Darvis "Doc" Patton, who ran leg three, and then only in two of the those preceding meets. At the Games in the semifinals, Patton and Gay, anchoring, could not compete an exchange.

It's worth observing that Patton and Gay were not at the relay practice camp prior to the Games. This goes to the issue squarely confronting the American program now: getting together to practice and compete as much as possible.

In essence, Mitchell is, at least through the 2016 Games, a big piece of the fix.

USATF hired him in a bid to bring winning structure and order to a scene that should be simple — getting the stick around the track — but, in fact, is layered with complexities.

Despite the well-publicized glitches, there are signs the U.S. relay program can, genuinely, meet expectations.

Dennis Mitchell at the 122nd Penn Relays last month at Franklin Field // photo USATF

The gold medal-winning U.S. 4x100 men's relay team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, left to right: Dennis Mitchell, Leroy Burrell, Mike Marsh and Carl Lewis // Getty Images

For instance, the 2015 Penn Relays showed real evidence of development: Notre Dame grad Pat Feeney stepped in on short notice to run a 44.84 anchor to give the U.S. 4x400 team a win over the Bahamas.

At the 2015 World Relays a few days later in the Bahamas, a U.S. foursome — Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Gay and Ryan Bailey — went 37.38 to take down Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans.

There are also signs of just how difficult putting, and keeping, together such a program can be.

Bailey, struggling with his hamstrings, has essentially been MIA since last June’s U.S. nationals in Eugene, where he false-started out of the 100 and then withdrew from the 200.

It’s also the case that, in the relays, stuff happens. At those 2016 Penn Relays, Gay and Young could not connect; the year before, Rogers, Gatlin, Young and Bailey beat the Jamaicans (without Bolt), winning in 38.68.

After this year’s Penn misfire, former U.S. standout Leroy Burrell declared it “might be time for a bit of regime change with the leadership,” adding a moment later, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to get the stick around. I saw thousands of relay teams yesterday — maybe not thousands but hundreds of relay teams get it around. But the professionals can’t. That ’s just not good for our sport.”

His comments came after this from Carl Lewis, the 1980s and 1990s sprint champion, at the USOC media summit in Beverly Hills, California: “America can’t cross the line so something’s going on here. Nine-year-olds never drop the stick.”

A note: Mike Marsh, Burrell, Mitchell and Lewis made up the four who ran a then-world record 37.4 to win gold in the 4x1 relay at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The current mark: 36.84, run by Bolt and the Jamaicans in the London 2012 final.

Another note: three of four on that U.S. 1992 relay were members of the famed Santa Monica Track Club: Marsh, Burrell and Lewis. That leaves -- who?

One obvious follow-on: Marsh, Burrell and Lewis, teammates, could — and did — run together regularly in practice and competition.

The starting place for any elite-level relay discussion has to be this: the Olympics and worlds are not high school or college.

It’s one thing to execute when a men’s 4x1 relay is 45 or 50 seconds. It’s another at the highest level, when the time drops to 38 or even 37-ish seconds.

“I’m tired of people who have been part of Team USA take shots at Team USA,” Gatlin said in response to Burrell’s remarks. “To put us in the same boat as high schoolers is insulting.”

Added Rodgers, “People keep pointing their fingers and downing us, but nobody has ever tried to come out there and help us. Nobody from the past. Not Carl or Leroy. They haven’t been out there. I can’t really respect their opinions because they’re supposed to be leaders in our sport and in the USA, and they’re not coming out there to drop some knowledge on us, so I don’t care what they have to say.”

The next variable: in a perverse way, the U.S. program suffers from a luxury of too much talent. Other countries know all along who the top five or six runners in the 4x1 or 4x4 might be, because there are only that many, and so they can run together, repeatedly. Obviously: practice makes perfect.

In 2015, the United States saw 33 men and 37 women meet the Rio 2016 Olympic qualifying standard in the 100. For men, that’s 10.16; for women, 11.32.

At those 2015 World Relays, who took third in the men’s 4x1? Japan. There are not 20 guys in all of Japanese track history who have run 10.16.

Next, and sticking with the men’s 100:

For the 2016 Olympics, there will be six guys in the U.S. men’s relay pool. But officials clearly can’t know until the evening of July 3, after the U.S. Trials men’s 100 has been run at venerable Hayward Field in Eugene, who the first four guys across the line are going to be.

The other two spots? Officials similarly have to wait until other events are run; those two spots might be filled, after discussion, by another 100-meter place finisher, 200-meter runner or even a hurdler or long or triple jumper. Whoever.

Because there’s probability but there literally cannot be certainty about who the top four guys might be, that makes it a virtual impossibility to practice, practice, practice together.

On top of which:

It’s unclear what gets accomplished — other than disruption — when athletes who are sponsored by shoe companies other than Nike get pulled from U.S. national-team relays, and particularly on short notice.

Five years ago, Ato Boldon, the 1990s Olympic sprint medalist who is now widely considered the sport’s premier television analyst, put forth a list of six “rules” he suggested the U.S. program adopt. A number still deserve solid consideration today, including:

“Rule 3 is managers/agents stay the $%&* out of practice/discussions. What YOUR client ‘wants to run’ means nothing.”

The week of the 2015 Penn Relays, adidas pulled no fewer than eight athletes out, citing uniform issues.

At the 2015 Diamond League meet in Monaco, U.S. officials weren’t told that Trell Kimmons, who also is sponsored by adidas, wasn’t going to run until he was literally in the tunnel about to compete.

After the Monaco meet, USATF, working in conjunction with its’ athletes’ advisory committee, worked out an entirely workable compromise, the details of which went out to all involved in late March or early April of this year, meaning everyone had more than ample notice:

In general, athletes would be free to wear what they wanted — both to and from meets, and in practice. The exception: one domestic and one international relay competition, typically USA v. the World at the Penn Relays and Monaco or a similar summer event. At those two events, on the day of competition, athletes would have to wear Nike to and from, and of course at the meet.

On the men’s side in the 100, six of the top 10 Americans run for Nike: Rodgers, Gatlin, Gay, Young, Bailey, Remontay McClain. Strike Bailey. So down to five. All five sent word they were in for Penn.

Wallace Spearmon, who is now unattached, also said he would be in. So, six.

Treyvon Bromell, the 2015 worlds bronze medalist in the 100, is a New Balance guy. USATF got told he would be a no-go.

Kimmons and Marvin Bracy are adidas. No-go, USATF was informed.

On the track, Rodgers, Gatlin and Gay had staked the Americans to the lead before that missed final handoff, Gay to Young.

“I can’t fault them for wanting to sell shoes,” USATF high performance director Mahoney said.

But, he said, “In this case, it’s almost penny-wise, pound-foolish. What are they trying to accomplish?”

U.S. No. 1 overall -- in fast-changing world

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BEIJING — With images of Jesse Owens and Luz Long on the big screens, Owens’ grand-daughter kicked off the final night of the 2015 track and field championships by presenting Usain Bolt his gold medal from the men’s 4x100 relay the night before.

This was, in a nutshell, the past and present of the sport. The future?

Usain Bolt on the medals stand Sunday night // Getty Images

This, probably more than anything, from Seb Coe, the newly elected president of the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, taking over from Lamine Diack of Senegal, who served for 16 years: “We are more than a discussion of test tubes, blood and urine.”

He also said at a Sunday news conference, “We have a sport that is adorned by some of the most super-human outrageously talented people in any sport. Our challenge is to make sure the public know there are other athletes,” not just Bolt, “in our sport.”

This is not — not for a second — to discount the import of doping in track and field. But it’s clear things are changing.

The men’s 100 is often thought to be the dirtiest race in the sport; not so; a read of the historical record shows that, without question, it’s the women’s 1500.

And now that times in that event are often back at 4 minutes and over — the final Tuesday saw a slow, tactical 1500, won by one of the sport’s breakout stars, Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, in 4:08 — more women from more countries can claim a legitimate shot at a medal.

That, actually, is one of the two big take-aways from these 2015 worlds: more athletes from more countries winning medals.

And, despite a disappointing medal performance by the U.S. team, the other: the emerging political influence internationally, concurrent with Coe’s presidency, of USA Track & Field.

Seb Coe, center, at Sunday's news conference, with IAAF general secretary Essar Gabriel, left, and communications director Nick Davies, right

Despite the chronic backbiting within certain circles — sometimes, track and field comes off as the only major sport in the world in which its most passionate adherents seemingly find joy by being so self-destructive — the sport could well be poised for a new era in the United States.

That depends, of course, on a great many factors. But everything is lined up.

Next year’s Rio Games are in a favorable time zone.

USATF has, in the last three years, under the direction of chief executive Max Siegel, made significant revenue leaps.

Beyond that, Eugene, Oregon, last year played host to the World Juniors and a meeting of the IAAF’s ruling council; the 2016 world indoors will be staged in Portland, Oregon; the 2021 world championships back in Eugene.

The 2017 track championships will be in London; in 2019, in Doha, Qatar.

By comparison: the swim world championships have never been held in the United States. This summer’s FINA championships were held in Kazan, Russia; in 2017, the swim worlds will be in Budapest; in 2019, in Gwangju, South Korea.

In elections that preceded this Beijing meet, all five of USATF’s candidates for IAAF office won; USATF president Stephanie Hightower got the highest number of votes, 163, for any candidate running for the IAAF council.

“You’ve got Seb leading the way but the change in the USATF position internationally is extremely significant,” Jill Geer, the USATF spokeswoman, observed Sunday night.

She also said, “Our development has to continue, and we don’t take our status as the world’s No. 1 track and field team for granted, at all,” adding, “No medals are guaranteed.”

From 2013 going back to 2004, the U.S. has been a 25-medal average team at world majors, meaning the Olympics or worlds.

Here, 18 overall, six gold.

Kenya and Jamaica -- with a victory late Sunday in the women's 4x4 relay -- topped the gold count, with seven. Kenya, overall: 16. Jamaica, overall: 12.

The upshot: for the first time at a world championships, dating to 1983, the U.S. finished third or worse in the gold-medal standings.

The last worlds at which the Americans won so few medals: Edmonton 2001, 13 overall, five gold; Athens 1997, 17 overall, six gold.

Here, the Chinese showed they are an emerging track and field threat, with nine medals, seven of them silver.

Ethiopia, Poland, Canada and Germany won eight apiece. Canada won two golds, in men’s pole vault, Shawn Barber, and on Sunday in men’s high jump, Derek Drouin, with a jump of 2.34 meters, or 7 feet, 8 inches.

Canada's Derek Drouin after his winning jump // Getty Images

Some specific examples of how the world is changing in real time:

The women’s 100 hurdles, long the domain of the Americans (and, recently, Australia’s Sally Pearson, who was hurt and did not compete here)?

Your Beijing podium -- Jamaica, Germany, Belarus.

The women’s 200? Gold went to Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands in a time, 21.63, surpassed in history only by the Americans Florence Griffith-Joyner and Marion Jones.

Asked the inevitable question, Schippers said, I’m clean.

Allyson Felix, the U.S. 200 star, didn’t challenge Schippers in that race; instead, Felix ran the 400, cruising to gold Thursday in 49.26, the year’s fastest time. Coe said the conversation ought to begin in earnest now about the possibility of allowing Felix the chance — like Michael Johnson in Atlanta in 1996 — to double in the 200 and 400 next year in Rio.

Without question, Bolt remains the dominant figure in track and field, and has been since his breakout performance here at the Bird’s Nest seven summers ago. Indeed, Coe said no single figure in international sport had captured the public imagination like Bolt since, probably, Muhammad Ali.

Assuming Bolt can keep himself in the good health he showed here, the world gets at least one more run-through of The Bolt Show, next summer in Rio, now with a worthy rival, the American Justin Gatlin, who took silver in both the 100 and 200. After that? Bolt’s sponsors want him to keep going through the London 2017 world championships; Bolt said he will have to think about it.

That relay Saturday night capped yet another incredible performance for Bolt. But for his false start at the Daegu 2011 worlds, he has won everything at a worlds or Olympics since 2008 — 100, 200, 4x1.

That was a familiar storyline.

This, too:

Mo Farah, the British distance star, nailed the triple double — winning the 5 and 10k, just as he had done at the Moscow 2013 worlds and the London 2012 Olympics.

The American Ashton Eaton won the decathlon, setting a new world record, 9045 points. He and his wife, the Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, make up the reigning First Couple of the sport; she won silver in the heptathlon.

Dibaba, after winning the 1500 on Tuesday, took bronze in the 5000 Sunday night, a 1-2-3 Ethiopian sweep. Almaz Ayana broke away with about three laps to go, building a 15-second lead at the bell lap and cutting more than 12 seconds off the world championships record, finishing in 14:26.83.

Senbere Teferi outleaned Dibaba at the line. She finished in 14:44.07, Dibaba seven-hundredths behind that.

For junkies: Ayana covered the last 3000 meters in Sunday’s final quicker than any woman has run 3000 meters in 22 years.

Dibaba’s sister, Tirunesh, had held the world championship record, 14:38.59, set in Helsinki in 2005. Tirunesh Dibaba holds the world record still, 14:11.15, set in Oslo in 2008.

Then, of course, Beijing 2015 saw this all-too-familiar tale:

The U.S. men screwed up the 4x1 relay, a botched third exchange Saturday night from Tyson Gay to Mike Rodgers leading to disqualification after crossing the finish line second, behind Bolt and the Jamaicans.

Going back to 2001, the U.S. men’s 4x1 has failed — falls, collisions, botched handoffs — at nine of 15 major meets. Not good.

Job one is to get the stick around. If the Americans do that, they are almost guaranteed a medal — and, given a strategy that now sees Gatlin running a huge second leg, the real possibility of winning gold, as the U.S. team did in May at the World Relays, with Ryan Bailey anchoring.

Bailey did not qualify for these championships.

It’s not that the U.S. men — and women — didn’t practice. Indeed, all involved, under the direction of relay coach Dennis Mitchell, thought things were lined-up just right after the prelim, in which the same four guys — Treyvon Bromell, Gatlin, Gay, Rodgers — executed just fine.

The plan, practiced and practiced: hand-offs at about 10 to 12 meters in the zone in the prelims, 12 to 14 in the final. The plan, further: 28 steps in the final, 26 in the prelim — the extras accounting for the faster runs in the final, adrenaline and other factors.

Rodgers took responsibility for the essential mistake. He broke too early.

As Jill Geer, the USA Track & Field spokeswoman put it in an interview Sunday night with several reporters, “In the relays, there’s a lot of pressure. everybody feels it,” athletes, coaches, staff.

She added, “They don’t accept a DQ any easier than the public does.”

Geer also noted, appropriately, that medals at this level are a function of three things: preparation, execution and luck, good or bad.

In the women’s 1500 on Tuesday, American Jenny Simpson — the Daegu 2011 gold medalist, the Moscow 2013 runner-up — lost a shoe. She finished 11th, eight-plus seconds behind Genzebe Dibaba.

Men’s decathlon: Trey Hardee — the Berlin 2009 and Daegu 2011 champion — got hurt halfway through the 10-event endurance test. He had to pull out.

Women’s 100 hurdles: 2008 Beijing gold and 2012 London silver medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson crashed out; Kendra Harrison was DQ’d; and the 2013 world champion, Brianna Rollins, finished fourth.

Women’s 4x4 relay: the Americans sent out a star-studded lineup, 2012 Olympic 400 champ Sanya Richards-Ross, Natasha Hastings, Felix and Francena McCorory, who had run the year’s fastest pre-Beijing time, 49.83.

Before the race, the four Americans went all Charlie's Angels.

Left to right, before the 4x4 relay: Francena McCorory, Allyson Felix, Natasha Hastings, Sanya Richards-Ross // Photo via Twitter

Felix, running that third leg, then put the Americans in front with a 47.7-second split. But McCorory, windmilling with 90 meters to go, could not hold off Novlene Williams-Mills, and Jamaica won in a 2015-best 3:13.13. The Americans: 3:19.44.

It was the first Jamaican 4x4 relay worlds gold since 2001. The Jamaicans have never won the relay at the Olympics.

After the race: McCorory, Hastings, Felix // Getty Images

What gold looks like // Getty Images

In the men’s 4x4, LaShawn Merritt reliably turned in a winning anchor leg to lead the U.S. to victory in 2:57.82.

Trinidad and Tobago got second, a national-record 2:58.2. The British, just as in the women’s 4x4, took third. The British men: 2:58.51; the British women, a season-best 3:23.62.

Earlier Sunday night, Kenyan men went 1-2 in the men’s 1500, Asbel Kiprop winning in 3:34.4, Elijah Manangoi 23-hundredths back.

The U.S. got three guys into the final, including 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano and Matthew Centrowitz, second in the 1500 at the Moscow 2013 worlds, third at Daegu 2011.

The American finish: 8-10-11, Centrowitz, Manzano, Robby Andrews.

Manzano said afterward, “The first 800 was fine, but I thought I was just going to gear up like I did two days ago,” in the prelims, riding his trademark kick. “Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out like that. Sometimes it just clicks in place, and today didn’t quite fit in there.”

A couple hours before that men’s 1500, Geer had said, “We had an awful lot of 4-5-6-7 finishes,” adding that “those are the kind of finishes where we will be drilling in and saying, how do we turn that 4-5-6 into a 1-2-3?”

The men’s 5k on Saturday, for instance: 5-6-7, Galen Rupp, Ben True, Ryan Hill.

Beating Farah? That’s an audacious goal.

But, Geer insisted, there is “nothing systemically wrong” with the U.S. effort.

“Our performance wasn’t necessary all the medals we had planned for or hoped for,” she said.

At the same time, she asserted, “When you look at our performance here, where we did well and maybe didn’t do well, if we can fix, which we absolutely can, even half the areas we had execution mistakes or under-performed, we will be extraordinarily strong in Rio.”

A decathlon record but more U.S. relay woe

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BEIJING — For this world championships year, 2015, the U.S. 4x100 men’s and women’s relay teams had one objective, and one objective only: get the stick around. Really. The trick was not to fall prey to the dropsies, oopsies and bumps in the night that have for far too long at major meets have plagued American entries. With several young runners on the track and and the idea of using the 2015 worlds as an end unto itself but also a means of preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the verdict Saturday: oops, again!

At first, it appeared the Americans had pulled second-place finishes in the 4x1, both times behind the Jamaicans.

The U.S. women turned in a season-best effort.

But then the U.S. men were disqualified for a gruesome-looking third pass, Tyson Gay to Mike Rodgers -- out of the zone.

Tyson Gay after the U.S. DQ // Getty Images

To win at this level, everything has to go right. It's very complex. But at the same time, very simple. Veronica Campbell-Brown, the Jamaican veteran, offered the summation of what they do right and the Americans consistently find a struggle: "We executed well, we finished healthy and we won."

This next-to-last night of the 2015 worlds offered great performances not just on the track but in the field events as well.

In the decathlon, the American Ashton Eaton went into the last event, the 1500, needing a 4:18.25 or better to break his own world record, the 9039 points he put up at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Beyond pride and records, don’t think he didn’t want the record, even if this is a non-Olympic year; it would mean, given bonuses and roll-overs, six-figures plus.

His wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, the Canadian silver medalist heptathlete here and at the Moscow 2013 worlds as well, tweeted about an hour before he would run:

To go 4:18, Eaton would have needed to keep to this pace: 1:08 at 400 meters; 2:17, 800; 3:26. 1200; 4:18, finish.

In Eugene in 2012, Eaton had run a personal-best 4:14.48.

Michael Schrader of Germany hit 400 in 1:09.34, Eaton back in the pack; Larbi Bourrada of Algeria 800 in 2:21.56, Eaton one step behind; Bourrada at 1200, stretching it out, 3:31.61; Eaton ran hard down the homestretch, chasing Bourrada, who crossed in 4:16.61.

Eaton, 4:17.52.

Clear by 73-hundredths of a second.

Eaton fell to the track, then got up and staggered toward the sidelines, hands on knees, before climbing over the rail to give his wife a hug. The picture of exhaustion, he literally needed help getting back over the railing.

The new world record: 9045 points.

His performance included a decathlon event world record 45-flat Friday in the 400; Bill Toomey had run 45.63 in 1968.

Ashton Eaton after crossing the finish line in the decathlon 1500 // Getty Images

Winning a world championship and setting a world record looks like this // Getty Images

He said later about Brianne, "She’s — it can’t be summed up in words but I now I would not have done what I did today without her."

He also said about the emotion that welled up after his victory, "The older I get," and he's 27, "the more I realize we're making choices to have the experience we're having. Those choices involve giving up a lot of stuff.

"You just feel like you miss a lot, friends, family ... it is just an accumulation of those feelings, and when you do something you just realize, I am doing it for a reason, and when that reason manifests itself it's pretty emotional."

Canada’s Damian Warner took decathlon silver, 8695, a national record; Rico Freimuth of Germany third, in a personal-best 8561.

"When Ashton broke the world record, the feeling on my skin was unbelievable," Freimuth said, adding, "I told him he is the greatest athlete."

Eaton in the middle of performance // Getty Images for IAAF

Breaking the world record by less than that one second carried with it a slight irony. At the 2014 world indoors in Sopot, Poland, Eaton missed breaking his own heptathlon world record in the final event, the 800, by — one second.

"That was a gutsy 1500, huh?!" Harry Marra, who coaches Eaton husband and wife, said later -- and the results both put up underscore what a world-class coach that Marra, after many years in the sport, continues to be.

Eaton said that before the 1500, "I was doubting myself in the restroom, thinking, I don't know if I can run that." Then he thought, "I have a lot of people who believe in me … and they were all saying, you can do it. I was like, yeah, think I can."

Earlier Saturday evening, Britain’s Mo Farah completed the distance triple double, winning the men’s 5k with a ferocious kick to cross in 13:50.38. He won the 10k earlier in the meet.

Britain's Mo Farah, second from left, racing to victory in the 5k // Getty Images

With the victory, Farah became the 5 and 10k champion at the 2012 Olympics, 2013 worlds and, now, here.

The winning time, 13:50.38, was the slowest in the history of the world championships, dating to 1983. The previous slowest: Bernard Lagat, 13:45.87, at Osaka, Japan, in 2007.

Farah ran the last 400 meters in 52.7 seconds, the last 200 in 26.5. "The important thing," he said, "is to win the race, and I did that."

Americans in the 5k: 5-6-7.

For the first time ever at a world championships, the women’s high jump saw six athletes go over 1.99 meters, or 6 feet, 6-1/4 inches.

Russia’s Maria Kuchina won at 2.01, 6-7, the 0ft-injured Croatian star, Blanka Vlašić, taking second, also at 2.01 (she had one earlier miss, at 1.92, 6-3 1/2), tearfully blowing kisses to the crowd after her last jump.

Russia's Maria Kuchina on the way to winning the women's high jump //

Blanka Vlasic of Croatia tearfully taking second // Getty Images

Vlašić now has two worlds golds and two silvers; she took silver at the Beijing 2008 Games. This was Kuchina’s first worlds; she registered an impressive six first-time clearances Saturday before being stymied at 2.01. Another Russian, Anna Chicherova, the London 2012 gold and Beijing 2008 bronze medalist, took third, also 2.01 but with two earlier misses.

"Today I showed that I am still there, that it is not over," Vlašić said.

Since 2003, meanwhile, there had been 13 major sprint relay competitions before Saturday night — Olympics, world championships and, the last two years, World Relays.

At those 13, U.S. men had botched it up — drops, collisions, falls, hand-offs outside the zone — seven times.

Add in a retroactive doping-related DQ from the Edmonton 2001 worlds, and the scoreboard said eight of 14. Dismal.

U.S. women: five no-go’s going back to 2003, four in the sprints, one collision in the 4x1500 in the Bahamas in 2014.

There’s a women’s retroactive Edmonton 2001 doping-related DQ, too. So that would make it six.

It’s not as if the athletes, coaches and, for that matter, administrators at USA Track & Field are not aware of the challenge.

Indeed, after the 2008 Summer Games here at the Bird’s Nest, USATF commissioned a thorough report on the matter, dubbed Project 30; in those Olympics, both men’s and women’s 4x1 relays dropped the baton on the exchange to the anchor, Torri Edwards to Lauryn Williams, and Darvis Patton to Tyson Gay.

The Project 30 report identified a host of institutional and structural challenges, and potential reforms, including more training camps.

What followed that next summer, at the Berlin 2009 world championships: the women’s 4x1 team DNF’d in the heats,  the men’s 4x1 effort got DQ’d in the rounds.

It hasn’t, of course, been all bad.

At the 2012 London Games, the U.S. women 4x1 ran to gold and a world-record, 40.82.

The U.S. relay program has this year been under the direction of Dennis Mitchell, the Florida-based former sprint champion who is now coach of, among others, Justin Gatlin.

He is so in charge that when, at a pre-meet news conference, U.S. team coaches Delethea Quarles (women) and Edrick Floréal (men) were asked about who might run in the relays, each said, it’s up to Mitchell.

It wouldn’t be a championships without some measure of, ah, observation from many quarters — fans, agents, press reports — about which Americans are doing what, or not, in which relay.

For instance, Tori Bowie, the bronze medalist here in the women’s 100, in 10.86, didn't run. Why?

Bowie is sponsored by adidas; the U.S. team by Nike. At the Diamond League meet earlier this summer in Monaco, to run in the relays you had to wear team gear. Some adidas athletes chose not to -- meaning they chose not to run. For emphasis, the U.S. team did not say, don’t run because you are sponsored by adidas; indeed, the U.S. team said please do run, in national-team gear.

The predictable upshot, this quote from Bowie’s agent, Kimberly Felton: “Of course, she would love to run the relay and support her country.”

Well, sure. But a little context, please, because, as always, things just aren’t black and white.

In Monaco, Bowie attended one practice, according to USATF. Her representatives then informed USATF she would not be competing there and would not be part of the relay pool going forward, including the camp in Japan. To not stay part of the program — that was all from Bowie’s side.

This statement, in full, earlier this week from USATF:

“Our men’s and women’s sprinters were invited to Team USA relay camp in Monaco in mid-July and to Team USA’s overall World Championships training camp in Narita, Japan, this month. In order to ensure quality relay performances and success in Beijing, athletes were required to attend both camps and to actively participate in all practices. With a relatively high number of new, talented sprinters emerging this year, these practices were especially important for practicing exchanges and determining relay position. Tori Bowie’s representatives informed us that she would not compete in Monaco and later said she would not be moving forward with the relay process or attending camp in Narita. We moved forward, practicing with and planning for the athletes in attendance. We look forward to our relays taking the track on Saturday.”

If this all seems like something new, consider:

At those Osaka 2007 worlds, the American sprinter Carmelita Jeter won bronze in the 100, in 11.02, behind Jamaica’s Campbell (not yet married) and another American, Lauryn Williams, both in 11.01. Jeter ran in the 4x1 relay heats; U.S. coaches opted not to use her in the final, believing a different line-up gave the Americans their best chance; the U.S. women’s 4x1 team, no Jeter, won in 41.98.

In Saturday’s prelims, the U.S. women went 42 flat, second only to Jamaica, which went a world-leading 41.84.

The U.S.: English Gardner, Allyson Felix, Jenna Prandini, Jasmine Todd.

Jamaica: Sherone Simpson, Natasha Morrison, Kerron Stewart, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

In the finals, the Americans put out the same line-up; the Jamaicans, Campbell-Brown, Natasha Morrison, Elaine Thompson and Fraser-Pryce.

Felix ran a big second leg. But the Jamaicans had the lead by the time the stick got to Fraser-Pryce. Game over: the Jamaicans won in a world championship-record 41.07, second-fastest time in history, the Americans next in a season-best 41.68. Trinidad and Tobago pulled third, in a national-record 42.03.

On the men’s side:

At the World Relays in May in the Bahamas, the Americans figured out a formula for taking out the Jamaicans: get a big-enough lead so that even Usain Bolt, who ran anchor, couldn’t catch up. In the Bahamas, given a big lead by Justin Gatln and Tyson Gay, running legs two and three, Ryan Bailey held off Bolt for the victory.

Bailey is not here; he false started in his 100 heat at the U.S. nationals and so did not qualify; he then pulled out of the 200.

He would be missed.

In the Bahamas, the U.S. ran 37.38, and Bailey afterward made a throat-slash motion, emphasizing no fear of the Jamaicans.

The U.S. four here: Treyvon Bromell, Gatlin, Gay, Rodgers.

Jamaica in the prelims: Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell, Rasheed Dwyer, Nickel Ashmeade.

Prelim times: Jamaica 37.41, U.S. 37.91.

For the finals, the U.S. lineup stayed the same; for Jamaica, Carter, Powell, Ashmeade, Bolt.

Before it all got underway, Bolt did a little dance on the track, laughing and smiling, as always.

The Americans ran in Lane 6, Jamaicans in 4.

Inexplicably, Bromell almost missed the start; he was just settling into the blocks when the gun went off. He recovered and executed a slick pass to Gatlin, who, again, ran a huge leg two.

But the gap closed, and Bolt powered to victory in 37.36, best in the world this year.

Usain Bolt in a familiar pose: victory // Getty Images

The U.S. appeared to finished second in 37.77 despite that ugly-looking third pass, Gay to Rodgers. Rodgers actually stopped short for just a moment to try to be sure to grab the bright pink stick in the zone.

Rodgers said, "I knew that I had to slow it down a bit because I still did not have the baton. I wanted to stay in the zone."

Job not done.

More practice, more camps -- maybe more Ryan Bailey, it would appear, for 2016.

Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers, both in red, trying to make the third pass in the men's 4x1 // Getty Images

Scoreboard for the U.S. men since 2001 in the sprints: 15 races, nine fails. That's a failure rate of 60 percent.

Take out the 2001 doping matter and since 2003 it's eight fails-for-14. Still not good.

"It was very hard to get focused because of all the noise," Gay would say later, an odd thing for a veteran like him to say, adding a moment later, "We are all very upset because of the disqualification."

China, to a great roar, was moved up to second from third, in 38.01. Gatlin earlier in the week had noted the emergence of Chinese sprinters, including Bingtian Su, with a personal-best 9.99 in the 100. It was Su's 26th birthday Saturday, and after the race the crowd at the Bird's Nest serenaded him with a rousing version of "Happy Birthday."

Canada was jumped to third, 38.13.

For Bolt, this relay made for yet another championships triple -- with the exception of his false start at the Daegu 2011 worlds, and that relay in May in the Bahamas, he has won everything at a major meet, Olympics or world championships, since 2008: 100, 200 and the 4x1.

Bolt, later, on the Americans: "It is called pressure. They won the World Relays and the pressure was on them. I told you -- I am coming back here and doing my best."

Echoed Powell, "We came out very strong and I think the U.S. wanted it too bad. They made mistakes," he said, adding,  "We got the stick around, and we won."

Usain Bolt: still the 100 king

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BEIJING — Usain Bolt did Sunday night what Usain Bolt does best, winning the men’s 100 meters at the 2015 world track and field championships, crossing just one-hundredth of a second in front of Justin Gatlin.

This was not, for the record, a morality play. This was, simply, an excellent race.

For any and all worried about the future of track and field or who believed that the men’s 100 final at the Bird’s Nest made for a referendum on sport or life itself, be assured — the sun was going to come up Monday morning all over the world, whether Bolt or Gatlin prevailed. All is not right, or wrong, because of one-hundredth of a second.

Usain Bolt crosses just ahead of a flailing Justin Gatlin // Getty Images

And now we all have the delicious anticipation of a year-long build-up to the men’s 100 at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Not to mention the 200 here later this week.

This is all to the good for track and field. Indeed, it’s awesome. The race Sunday drew worldwide attention.

As Gatlin's agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, would say late Sunday night, "It’s what our sport sorely needs. A sport needs a rivalry. A photo finish like that is great for the sport.

"It elevates Bolt even more," Nehemiah said, adding with emphasis, "It elevates Gatlin even more."

Even the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, weighed in, saying after the race, “Congratulation to Usain Bolt for a historic victory. So great to see him winning in the Bird's Nest stadium again."

Gatlin and Bolt ran together down the track until, just a few meters from the end, a few strides out, Gatlin lost his form — a break in the technique that, all along, he had said was his key. Bolt ran hard to the line while Gatlin sought to keep driving and not wipe out.

Bolt: 9.79.

Gatlin: 9.80.

The American Trayvon Bromell and the Canadian Andre DeGrasse tied for third, at 9.911 — a sign, perhaps, that the next generation has arrived. Both are just 20 years old.

"I definitely think this was my hardest race," Bolt would say later.

Referring to Gatlin, Bolt said, "I could see him stumbling."

He cautioned, "All the stumbling, it could have helped him, momentum-wise. I had to lean at the right time, and I did just that."

Gatlin is now 33. Eleven years ago, at the 2004 Athens Olympics, he won the 100. At the 2005 Helsinki world championships, he won the 100 and 200. The next year, he got tagged with a positive test for testosterone under circumstances still not fully explained.

Gatlin spent four years out of the sport, then started working his way back: bronze in the 100 at the London 2012 Games, silver at the Moscow 2013 worlds, in both instances behind Bolt.

Gatlin — under the tutelage of Dennis Mitchell, himself a former champion sprinter — had not lost in 2014 or 2015.

Bolt, meantime, spent most of 2014 injured — he would run one 400 — and had run a limited number of times in 2015, posting a 9.87 earlier this year in London.

The experts thought it would be Gatlin all the way.

Indeed, Paddy Power, the online bookmaker, had installed Gatlin before Sunday’s semifinals and finals as a 5/6 favorite for victory, with Bolt at 11/10. Shortly before the finals themselves, the odds changed: Gatlin 4/9, Bolt 2/1.

Ato Boldon, himself a former champion sprinter who is now an accomplished broadcaster, had declared Saturday on his Facebook page, “Semi finals for tomorrow. Final will shock everyone (except those with two eyes, who use them),” elaborating for the New York Times, “Gatlin is so head and shoulders above anyone else in this field in terms of execution, fitness and readiness that I find it almost comical that it’s being billed as a big showdown. Gatlin is going to put on a clinic, and everyone who makes that 100 final is invited.”

Bolt ultimately put on the clinic — and yet in far too many quarters of the English-speaking press, particularly the British media, the race was depicted as a straightforward contest of “good” and “evil,” the caricature rendering Gatlin as “evil” and Bolt, who has never tested positive, as “good.”

This tweet, for example, from the track and field writer for the Daily Mail:

Nobody was turning off their sets. Just the opposite. For those who might prefer a more sober approach, here was the BBC:

“… The public wants sport to be entertainment and to provide simple lessons in morality. It wants great stories, and the greatest possible story has an alternative narrative to that proposed by Gatlin and Bolt.

“The public wants Gatlin to be the bad guy and Bolt to be the good guy. That's why hundreds of millions around the world will be watching Sunday's final in Beijing — to see the bad guy get beat.”

For one, Gatlin is not a bad guy. He is a good guy. For real — great with kids and with fans of the sport, with a mission to make track and field as interesting to Americans, in particular, as an NFL game. Gatlin cares deeply about track and field, about his country and about his family.

Moments after the race, Gatlin sought out his mother, Jeannette. Asked what he told her, he replied:

"I didn’t say anything to my mother. Win or lose, that was my plan, to go embrace her. For the simple fact that my mother and my father," Willie, a Vietnam vet, "have been through my ups and downs with me. For them, it has been a journey. It has been a journey for me. I’m so happy they can be at every championship I have been at. I love them. I love them."

For another, the 100 is a footrace, not a marker for world peace.

Larry Eder, editor of the website RunBlogRun, which covers road running and track and field, had written, “I have to admit, I get really tired of the good versus evil and the big bad doper stories. It takes less much more work to write about the the pile of horse manure piled on the sport in recent times, than it does to write about one, how to change it, and two, what is actually going on in Beijing.”

Also Sunday, 13 months after giving birth to a son, Reggie, Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill won gold in the heptathlon; Joe Kovacs won the men’s shot put with a fifth-round throw of 21.93 meters, 71 feet 11-1/2 inches, the first American to win at the worlds in six years and Team USA’s first gold here in Beijing; the rounds of the men’s 400 were super-crazy fast, with 18 guys running under 45 seconds, two under 44; and the American Tori Bowie going 10.88 in the first round of the women’s 100, the fastest first-round time ever in the history of the world championships.

As the BBC noted in even the same piece, the “very idea of Gatlin as some harbinger of death for the sport of athletics is darkly absurd and comical in itself, given that generations of drug cheats have been doing their best to kill the sport for half a century.”

Nonetheless, at the post-race news conference, a reporter asserted that "a few of the other athletes in the race" said it was "important" that Bolt win. What did Gatlin think about that?

He replied, "I'm thankful."

"Anything more? Can you be more specific?"

"Specifically, I'm thankful."

"Is that what you have to say? It's an important issue for me, at least."

"Very important? Then I'm thankful."

Next question, from a different reporter: "Rightly or wrongly, do you think the IAAF are grateful you didn't [win]?"

"I'm thankful."

Nehemiah had said just minutes before, referring to the anti-Gatlin venom infecting so many in the media, "It's unfair. I feel badly for him because I know him personally. As much as I say to him, 'Let your running be your refuge,' he’s human. It’s sad we are reading the lowest common denominator."

He added a moment later, "At some point we need to rise above that. Because he himself doesn’t deserve that."

For those intrigued by numerology, Bolt's 9.79 matched exactly the 9.79 that Ben Johnson, of mega-doping fame, ran in Seoul in 1988. Make of that what you will, if anything.

Back in the real world, the unrelenting emphasis from the Daily Mail and others:

Four of Saturday’s seven prelims were won by athletes with doping records: Gatlin, who in addition to his 2006 difficulties also tested positive in 2001 for trace amounts of amphetamine owing to the use of Adderall, his prescription medicine for ADD; the American Tyson Gay, a one-year suspension for steroid use; Femi Ogunode, the Nigerian-born runner who runs for Qatar, two years for a stimulant; and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, six months for a stimulant.

Another American, Mike Rodgers, also qualified into Sunday’s semifinal; he got nine months off for a stimulant.

All but Ogunode would make it through to Sunday’s final.

In the first of Sunday night’s three semifinals, Bolt almost tripped coming out of the blocks — it looked like his bright yellow shoes with the green stripe on the side were maybe a stitch too long in front — and had to dig to win the heat, which he did in 9.96. DeGrasse, the Pan Am Games and NCAA champ, also crossed in 9.96.

Bromell finished third, in 9.99. Bingtan Su, fourth, became the first Chinese ever to go sub-10, also timed in 9.99.

"As an athlete, you can ask any athlete, any top athlete, if you start doubting yourself, you have already lost the race," Bolt said when asked if the semifinal stumble weighed on him going into the final, adding, "I never doubt myself."

All Gatlin did in the next semifinal was rip off the fastest worlds non-final time ever, 9.77. And he was taking it easy at the end, slowing with 10 meters to go.

Rodgers flashed across second, in a season-best 9.86.

Ogunode took third, in 10-flat.

In the third semi, it was Gay in 9.96, Powell in 9.97.

Thus, into the final, all four Americans: Gatlin, Gay, Rodgers, Bromell.

In the final, Gatlin drew Lane 5, Bolt 7, Gay between them in 6.

Mugging for the cameras before the start, Bolt smiled and made the kind of motion with his hands you might make on Halloween, as if to say, who’s scared?

Gatlin blew two kisses, then — as he had in the prelims and semis — made a show of strength with both fists.

Bolt, since his false start in the 100 at the 2011 Daegu worlds, has been a cautious starter. On Sunday, though, he was out of the blocks in 0.159 seconds; Gatlin, in 0.165.

Gatlin drew ahead, and stayed ahead, until about 80 meters. Then it got tight.

And then Gatlin gave the race away. As he said in a news conference, aiming for the line, he was "trying to get my momentum forward." He got too forward, and lost control.

It made for Gatlin’s first loss since Sept. 6, 2013.

Asked if he believed Gatlin pressed, knowing that Bolt was right there, Nehemiah said, "Extremely. Lost concentration."

He also said, meaning the race itself, "I still think it was epic for the fans."

Bolt, meanwhile, has to be given enormous credit for his performance come championship time — and his ability to keep on being the best in the world over a sustained period. He is now the 100 champion at the 2008 (and 2012) Olympics, and at the 2009, 2013 and 2015 worlds.

Bolt with his meme // Getty Images

He also just turned 29 — two days ago.

And still the king. After the race, camera crews urged him into his “To Di World” pose.

Asked about the difference between 2009, when he ran a world-record 9.58, and now, Bolt said, "I’m the same person. I’m just getting older. It’s about trying to get everything together throughout the season. It’s hard."

And it's going to keep getting harder.

Nehemiah, once more, referring to next year in Rio: "We could still have the ending we want. If [Gatlin] wins that, people will forget about Beijing."

Mo Farah: long-running king of his domain

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BEIJING — The 10,000 meters is why track fans who are track fans are, really, track fans and those who are not track fans, well, aren’t.

It’s 25 laps around the track. The best men in the world run it in about 27 minutes.

It starts slow and finishes fast. Really fast.

It’s a race of will, skill, tactics, tenacity and great theater.

On Saturday at the Bird’s Nest, the first night of the Beijing 2015 world championships, Britain’s Mo Farah affirmed his standing as the best in the world, winning the 10k in 27:01.13. Two Kenyans, Geoffrey Kamworor and Paul Tanui, took second and third. The American Galen Rupp finished fifth.

To the beat of 16 drummers banging on giant red drums along the homestretch, Farah — in his typical style — unleashed a ferocious kick over the last lap and particularly the final 100 to claim his fourth world championship gold. The winning time made for a Bird’s Nest record, by three-hundredths of a second.

Britain's Mo Farah sprinting to victory in the men's 10k // Getty Images

The 10k went down after an evening that saw another jaw-dropping Bird's Nest opening ceremony — no drums this time, as at the start of the Beijing Olympics seven years ago, but plenty of dancing, singing and more — and, then, the first rounds of the men’s 100, dominated by Justin Gatlin in a (slightly) wind-aided 9.83 seconds.

In women’s shot put, Michelle Carter took third, just the second-ever American woman ever to win a medal in the event -- and the American team's first medal of the championships. Germany’s Christina Schwanitz won, China’s Lijiao Gona grabbed second.

The drumbeat heading into Saturday at the Bird's Nest had been doping, doping, doping -- and not much else.

Rupp and the Somali-born Farah, training partners at The Oregon Project under Alberto Salazar, have for months been fending off doping-related inquiries.

Gatlin, in the minds of many in the press, particularly the feral British media, came here as the symbol of a sport ever-afflicted by doping, the consequence of his two failed tests, the first for ADD medication in 2001, the second for a testosterone bust in 2006 — even though a read of the record makes it abundantly plain such a characterization is entirely unfair.

Bolt, meanwhile, returning to the scene of the first of his Olympic golds and his 9.69, then a world record (he would lower it the next year at the Berlin 2009 worlds to 9.58), was cast as all-around good guy, maybe even savior of the sport — a role he explicitly, at a pre-meet news conference, declined.

Even the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, was asked about doping, and not just once, at a Friday news conference.

Bach's answers, meantime, ought to serve as a vivid reminder that the world can be fraught with moral judgments that don’t serve to accomplish much of anything. As Bach made plain, we live in a world of grays, not black and white — of rules, laws, transgressions, sanctions, redemption and opportunity.

Bach was asked whether he — emotionally — could get behind a lifetime ban for doping.

“If you ask me about my emotions,” he said, “I would say clearly yes, a lifetime ban I would still support.”

But, he went on, “I had to learn from different courts and lawyers, like [IAAF president-elect] Sebastian Coe and others who were asking for this, that this is legally just not possible. A lifelong ban would not stand any kind of challenge. We have to accept this.

“… If you have an athlete who has served his suspension, then he has the right to participate in championships. There I can remind you that we made an effort once to change this, for the Olympic Games, with the so-called ‘Osaka rule,’ “ which would have barred participation in the next edition of the Games for an offender, “and again we lost the court case — that this is not possible.

“The suspension is there and afterwards we have to treat these athletes in the same way like the others.”

A few moments later, Bach was given this example — if a civil servant makes a mistake, he or she is out of a job. Why not the same for an elite athlete?

“This is a different kettle of fish,” he said.

“We have had examples for the sentences, the judgments made by courts. It’s a legal question. We are not allowed to go further to take stricter sanctions. It’s a question of human rights. I’m not going to give you a lecture here. It’s a question of human rights, and we must admit these facts.

“Also, we must be conscious of the fact that the fight against doping is not only a question of sanctions. It’s also a question of efficiency of test systems, it’s prevention as well and other measures.”

Doping, doping, doping — and then, finally, Saturday night, some running and throwing. Would it quiet the chatter?

Not on your life.

Gatlin, asked the inevitable question in a post-race interview, said, “Understand it has been 10 years since I’ve done that. It has been 10 years since that happened to me. And I’m here doing better things. So everybody needs to drop it.”

In the first heat of the men’s 100, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, in the inside lane, went 9.95 — the 91st official sub-10 of his career. (Only a skeptic would note that Powell, a former 100 world record-holder, himself served a doping ban.)

Next heat: the American Tyson Gay, into a slight headwind, 10.11 for the victory. (Attention, skeptics: Gay, the American record holder, 9.69, has also served a doping ban.)

Third: Femi Ogunode, the Nigerian-born sprinter who runs for Qatar, took the heat, in 9.99. (Skeptics: Ogunode served a two-year doping ban that ended January, 2014.)

Fourth: the American Trayvon Bromell, in his second international meet, his first major meet, rocked the occasion by bringing back the short shorts. In the outside lane, he eased up and still went 9.91 for the win. Yow.

Fifth: France’s Jimmy Vicault in an easy 9.92, Canadian Andre DeGrasse — the Pan Am Games and NCAA champion from USC — in 9.99.

Sixth: Gatlin gave the camera two kisses, then two fists together in a show of strength, then — in the outside lane — ripped off a wind-aided 9.83. Wind-aided but just barely — the wind .1 over the limit at 2.1 meters per second. The last few meters — Gatlin didn’t even run hard.

“I just did what my coach said," Gatlin said afterward, a reference to Dennis Mitchell, "and go out there and dominate the first part of the race.”

Justin Gatlin cruising to victory in the heats in round one of the men's 100. That's South Africa's Henricho Bruintjies also in the frame, who would finish third in the heat, 24-hundredths  back // Getty Images

Seventh: Bolt made a show for the cameras of “running” with his fingers. Settling in to the blocks, he crossed himself, then pointed to the sky. He then lumbered out of the blocks and jogged to victory in 9.96. The American Mike Rodgers (skeptics — Rodgers also served time off for doping) took second, in 9.97.

Bolt, afterward: “Overall, it was good,” fifth-best overall in qualifying, then conceded not “as great as I want it to be.”

That 9.96 was, for Bolt, fast for an opening round. At those 2009 worlds in Berlin, he went 10.2 in the first round; 2011 worlds in Daegu, South Korea, 10.1; at the London 2012 Olympics, 10.09; at the 2013 worlds in Moscow, 10.07.

Ultimately: Berlin, world record; Daegu, false start and DQ; London, gold; Moscow, gold.

Gatlin took third in 2012, second in 2013.

Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt after round one of the men's 100 // Getty Images

Bolt also said, “I know Gatlin was running very easy but that is how it is. I am not worried.”

Gatlin on Bolt: “He did the same thing in 2012. He ran kind of slow in the first round, picked it up in the semis, first in the finals.”

That’s exactly it — for all the intrigue of the first round, the semifinal heats will be far more telling.

As Maurice Greene, the Sydney 2000 100 gold medalist here as a broadcaster, had said Friday, “The semis is going to be able to tell a lot. It’s really going to show you if Bolt is really ready. Then you will be able to make your decision about the final.”

The 10k is, of course, far too demanding for rounds. It’s one shot, and one shot only.

In Daegu, Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeylan ran the last lap in 52.7; Farah, 53.36. Farah’s silver made for Britain’s first-ever medal in the 10k — but Jeylan was the winner, in 27:13.81.

Since then, in international majors, the 10k has been all Farah: gold in London, gold in Moscow. In 2013, Jeylan took second. The difference: Farah kicked the final 100 in 12.82, Jeylan 13.15.

In London, Rupp took silver; he had been eighth in Berlin in 2009, seventh in Daegu; then took fourth in Moscow.

No non-African born runner had won a medal at a 10k worlds since 1987, when Francesco Panetta of Italy took silver. Could Rupp?

Farah, meanwhile, was seeking to become the first non-Ethiopian multiple worlds 10k winner.

The first lap Saturday went 68:39. Typical.

The field went through one kilometer in 2:52.7, two in 5:32.1, three in 8:15 — a very quick 27:30 pace.

At 5k, 13:40, Rupp running sixth, Farah seventh.

At 6k, 16:22, Rupp up to third, Farah fourth.

By 7k, the 22-year-old Kamworor had made a move into the lead, at 19:06. He is the 2015 world cross-country champion, the 2014 world half-marathon winner. Tanui was second, Farah third, Rupp fourth.

At 8k, Kamworor was timed in 21:49.99, Farah 26 seconds back, Tanui 26-hundredths back. A third Kenyan, Bedan Karoki Muchiri, was 46-hundredths back. Rupp, 62-hundredths. Everyone else — far behind.

With three laps to go, Farah moved to the lead. Kamworor immediately took it back.

They stayed that way with two to go. On the homestretch, the drummers started pounding.

One lap: Farah in front, Kamworor on his shoulder, and the lapped runners getting in the way, Farah stumbling ever-so-much with perhaps 350 meters to go but just as quickly recovering.

Down the homestretch, Farah pulled away. That winning time again: 27:01.13.

Farah in victory // Getty Images

Kamworor — still learning how to run on the track and so a force with which to be reckoned come next year, and the Rio Games — crossed 63-hundredths back.

Kamworor joined two legends of the sport, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Kenya’s Paul Tergat, as the only runners to win worlds cross-country gold, worlds half-marathon gold and worlds 10k silver. No one has ever won gold in all three races.

Tanui took third, 1.70 behind.

"We worked as a team trying to beat Mo Farah," Kamworor said. "But he is a tough guy to beat. I learned a lot from this race. It was very tactical, very slow from the beginning but getting faster and faster.

"I must say I am happy for our performance, medal counts, and with such a fierce competitor as Farah, silver counts."

 Muchiri ran a season-best 27:04.77 for fourth, Rupp a season-best 27:08.91 for fifth.

"I'm definitely disappointed," Rupp said, adding, "I just didn't have it today."

Farah ran the last kilometer in 2:28.81, Kamworor in 2:29.46.

"I nearly went down," he said, "but I managed to stay on my feet, thank God, and win the race. I just get to keep doing what I'm good at, and that is running and winning medals for my country.

"I just have to concentrate on winning my races. I do it for my family and the people behind me, for my wife and my kids."

Farah ran the first 5k in 13:40, the second in 13:21.

Seven years ago in Beijing, knocked out of his Olympic heat, Farah ran 13:50.

His last lap Saturday: 54.14 seconds.

Talk amongst yourselves. The 100 final goes down Sunday night.

Justin Gatlin, and a run for redemption

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When Justin Gatlin first got the news — this was nine years ago — that he had tested positive for the banned substance testosterone, he literally fell out of the truck he was driving.

“While we were on the phone,” his mother, Jeanette, would later testify, “all I could hear was him screaming and screaming on the other end, and how, no, no, no, no, I’m dead, I’m dead. And we were afraid that he was going to do something to himself. He was in North Carolina, and we were in Florida. You know, to — you can’t get there. You can’t keep him safe from doing whatever. He was just — he was — he was — he was screaming. He was screaming and yelling, and he was driving, and he was in his truck, and he fell out. He stopped, and he fell out, and he fell apart. He just kept on saying, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead. It’s over, it’s over, it’s — I’m dead, Mommy, I’m dead.’ ”

Justin Gatlin is assuredly not dead, and his track and field career is now the farthest thing from over. For the past two-plus years, Gatlin has been the best sprinter on Planet Earth, the fastest guy anywhere anytime. Many experts expect him not only to challenge but to defeat Usain Bolt in the 100 meters at the world championships, which begin this weekend at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. And maybe the 200, too.

Justin Gatlin in June at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, after running 19.57 to win the 200 at the U.S. nationals // Getty Images

"That's what everyone is waiting to see," Maurice Greene, the Sydney 2000 100 gold medalist, said Friday.

Here in Beijing as a television commentator, Greene added, referring to Bolt, "How prepared is he? Because you know Justin is prepared."

That 2006 test was Gatlin’s second go-around with the doping authorities; he would end up being banned for four years. The first test came in 2001. Because the facts and circumstances of both tests have been not just under-reported but thoroughly misunderstood, Gatlin has become to many with an interest in track and field something like Public Enemy No. 1 — particularly when compared, as he often is, to the larger-than-life Bolt.

The British press in particular has been given to depicting the races here in Beijing as a clash of "good versus evil."

In March, the Telegraph, one of Britain’s leading dailies, called Bolt a “superhero.”  A few days ago, the same newspaper included Gatlin on a list of what it called “the most hated sportsmen in the world,” a “sport-by-sport breakdown of the most loathsome individuals.”

 At a news conference Thursday, Bolt was asked if he was the "savior" of track and field. He said, speaking generally, not referring to Gatlin, “People are saying I need to win for the sport. But there’s a lot of other athletes out there running clean, and who have run clean throughout their whole careers. I can’t do it by myself. It’s a responsibility of all the athletes to take it upon themselves to save the sport and go forwards without drug cheats."

Usain Bolt at Thursday's news conference // Getty Images

The curious thing is that Justin Gatlin is the farthest thing from loathsome. As Greene said, referring to both Bolt and Gatlin, "Take out everything that has to do with sports. They’re both good guys." David Oliver, the U.S. 110-meter hurdles standout, said about Gatlin, "I'm rooting for him and I hope he does well."

Gatlin comes from a strong family. His father, Willie, served with distinction for more than 20 years in the U.S. military, a Vietnam veteran, and the son wears the red, white and blue national uniform with pride. Justin Gatlin is great with kids and with track and field fans. When he got tagged in 2006, his first instinct was to cooperate with the federal government in its BALCO investigation, which he did extensively. Since coming back to the sport five years ago, he has not tested positive, and be assured that he is a marked man.

The question now is, if you allow for the very real possibility that Justin Gatlin is indeed running clean, can he run this week in Beijing for redemption?

All things are possible in sports, and particularly track and field, which for years has been bedeviled by doping. But what if -- what if -- Gatlin is, despite all the well-earned skepticism about the sport, running clean?

In his sworn testimony, Gatlin himself said, “I believe in my talent to the fullest. And I think God is trying to be, my way of showing everyone that I can do this, I can run great times without even trying to use performance-enhancing drugs.”

In an interview, he said, “I think that for so long I have shut down because of being beat upon by the media, [believing] if I say less it will go away. I’m wrong.

“At this point in time, I am trying to open up more, speak more and take it in. I am a cool guy, a nice guy. I am not trying to short-change anybody taking anything away from anyone. I welcome competition. If I get beat, I say, ‘That was a good beating.’ If I win, ‘I say that’s a good win.’ ''

The many critics of track’s doping rules say, often citing Gatlin, that two strikes should mean a lifetime doping ban. But the rules say, unequivocally, that Gatlin is allowed to run.

It's not difficult to understand why the concept of a lifetime ban might seem so appealing to so many. But theory is not real life. And it is the case that when applied to life as it is — how Justin Gatlin came to test twice — a lifetime ban would be cruelly unfair.

Those plain facts are publicly available, and sketched out in great detail, including sworn testimony in extensive transcripts from a 2007 arbitration sparked by Gatlin’s 2006 test. These documents inhabit a federal court file in Pensacola, Florida. They make it clear that:

— Gatlin’s first flunked test, in 2001, was for medication he had been taking for attention deficit disorder, a condition he had wrestled with since he was a young boy. Gatlin, at the time still a teen-ager, tried to follow the rules. Nonetheless, he came up positive.

— The second test, at the Kansas Relays in 2006, has long sparked controversy because of the assertion in Gatlin’s camp that a masseuse rubbed steroid-laced cream on Gatlin, sparking the doping positive. A reading of the record strongly suggests that story came from Gatlin’s former coach, Trevor Graham, whose credibility — amid his extensive involvement in the BALCO scandal — has to be viewed with extreme suspicion. A more likely, if unproven, explanation is that the positive test resulted from a shot or a pill described at length in the testimony.

“At the end of the day,” Gatlin said in an interview at his training base in Clermont, Florida, near Orlando, “the irony of the situation is I really do want the sport to be in a better place outside of everything that has gone on in my life.

“I look at the young guys and say, ‘I don’t want you to go through what I went through because you run fast, or run faster.’

“I want people to say he is making a difference in his sport — moving the sport along.”

Justin Gatlin has run fast for a very long time. In high school in Florida, he was a state champion sprinter. That earned him a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. There he was a multiple NCAA champion.

At the 2001 junior nationals, when he was 19, Gatlin tested positive for trace amounts of amphetamine.

The substance at issue was Adderall, a prescription medication. At age 9, in fourth grade, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. His class had been assigned a test; Justin turned in a paper that contained a picture of a bird he had drawn instead -- the bird, on a window ledge, had captured his entire focus. A teacher suggested to his parents that Justin ought “to be evaluated.”

At UT, Gatlin was taking two summer school classes he needed to stay eligible: English 101 and Music History 350. In both classes, he had midterms the week of June 11, 2001, just before the junior nationals.

Gatlin took his Adderall to help him stay focused while studying for his midterms. He stopped taking it three days before running — why three days, exactly, instead of four or five or two or whatever, remains unclear. In the sample Gatlin gave on June 16, 2001, authorities detected trace amounts of amphetamine. A sample he gave the next day, June 17, contained even smaller amounts, consistent with Gatlin having stopped taking the Adderall on or before June 13.

The authorities and Gatlin would enter in a stipulated — meaning, mutually agreed — series of facts surrounding that test. These included:

“The course of action followed by most athletes with ADD is simply to discontinue their medication in advance of a competition. USADA,” the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, “advised athletes after consultation with their physicians to discontinue using the ADD medication prior to competition in order for the medication to clear their system.”

And:

“Mr. Gatlin neither cheated nor intended to cheat. He did not intend to enhance his performance nor, given his medical condition, did his medication in fact enhance his performance.”

The rule in doping matters is that an athlete is strictly liable for what is in his or her system.

The standard ban in those years for a first doping offense was two years.

An arbitration panel that reviewed the matter would observe:

“While Mr. Gatlin may have violated the IAAF anti-doping rules in that he did not first seek an exemption from the IAAF for his medication before he competed, he certainly is not a doper. This Panel would characterize Mr. Gatlin’s inadvertent violation of the IAAF’s rules based on uncontested facts as, at most, a ‘technical’ or ‘paperwork’ violation.”

Gatlin got two years. He then petitioned the IAAF for a reduction, citing “exceptional circumstances.” Granted. He served a provisional suspension of almost one year.

Gatlin left UT in 2002 and turned pro. He started training in Raleigh, North Carolina, with Graham’s Sprint Capitol group.

At the 2003 world indoor championships in Birmingham, England, Gatlin won the 60-meter dash.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Gatlin won the 100, in 9.85 seconds. He took third in the 200, in 20.03. He also earned a silver as part of the U.S. 4x100 relay team.

At the 2005 world championships in Helsinki, Gatlin won both the 100 and 200.

When Gatlin first connected with Graham, Gatlin’s parents were acutely concerned that Graham not only train Gatlin but, more broadly, look after their son.

“And all that was said at that time was, are you sure nothing is going to happen to Justin?” his mother would testify, recalling their first conversations with Graham.

“Are you going to make sure that he doesn’t get involved in all this other stuff,” meaning doping, “that, you know, my husband was reading about on the Internet, and I was reading about on the Internet.

“And he,” meaning Graham, “said, ‘Absolutely. That has nothing to do with us, my camp, and the way I train my athletes.”

Gatlin training under current coach Dennis Mitchell in Clermont, Florida

On April Fools’ Day 2004, a prank circulated on the web that Gatlin had tested positive.

“And actually, I was at the dentist’s office,” Jeanette Gatlin testified. “Justin was home. He had not really just located — I mean, he was home for visiting — and, anyway, my husband ran across this article on the Internet saying that Justin Gatlin had tested positive. And he called me at the dentist’s office, I went running home and he — should I say it all?”

“Go ahead,” the lawyer questioning her said.

“He was packing his gun.”

“And where was he headed?”

“He was headed to kill Trevor Graham.”

“And why was [that]?’

“Because it said Justin had tested positive, and Trevor had promised that there would be nothing like that going on in his camp. He was going to take care of Justin. And he knew, he knew that [Justin] already had that other offense hanging over him.”

“I trust you stopped him?”

“We stopped him, because … I’m saying — I’m saying, how can you go kill this man? I mean, you are going to — anyway, my husband is crying. Tears are coming out of his eyes. He’s crying. He’s ready to kill Trevor. And then Justin goes on the Internet, and he sits there, and he looks at it, and he says, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, read the bottom of it. Read the bottom of it. And the bottom of it said, April Fool’s.”

“Do you know who posted that?”

“I have no idea but we were very angry about it. And my husband was saying that — you know, they can’t be playing jokes like this with people’s lives. and then all of a sudden, somebody else may read it and believe it without going through it, like he didn’t go through it. And we never did find out who posted it …”

Track and field has a distinct rhythm to the outdoor season. Athletes build toward summer, which three years out of four brings either a world championships or Summer Games.

The Kansas Relays is an early-season fixture on the circuit, a three-day meet held every almost year (since 1923) in April.

On April 22, 2006, Gatlin ran in the 4x100 relay at those Kansas Relays with his Sprint Capitol teammates. They won, in 38.16.

On July 29, Gatlin announced to the press that he had tested positive for testosterone at the Kansas Relays.

Two mysteries relating to the 2006 test have long endured.

The first is what authorities thought they would find — that is, why bother to test — at such an early-season affair.

The second is why it took so long — three months, April to July — for the test from those Kansas Relays to become what’s called, in the vernacular, an “adverse analytical finding,” or a doping positive.

The court files explain.

From May 2004 through October 2006, Paul Scott supervised the reporting of athlete urine samples at the WADA-accredited UCLA laboratory. In that capacity, he supervised the reporting of Gatlin’s Kansas Relays sample. He would provide an April 7, 2008, sworn affidavit relating what happened:

Though the sample was provided April 22, 2006, it wasn’t until June 15 that the lab itself reported an adverse analytical finding. This nearly two-month delay was, as Scott would say, “not common practice.”

The reason for the delay?

Gatlin’s sample initially produced a negative result — meaning he apparently was clear — under what’s called the T/E ratio test, the standard test used both in- and out-of-competition to screen for testosterone. Indeed, Scott said, Gatlin’s sample was originally reported to USADA as a negative.

About one month later, USADA got in touch and requested that the lab perform what’s called a “longitudinal analysis” because, Scott said, because “they had reason to believe that the athlete was using testosterone,” adding, “I now know this athlete to be Justin.”

USADA executive Travis Tygart did not, Scott said, inform the lab of the “nature of the ‘tip’ nor the basis for his belief.”

The lab did as asked, and concluded that Gatlin is what’s called a “low-mode individual,” who — to make it simple — lacks a particular enzyme, with the effect that the T/E ratio is typically very low and does not much change if that individual is administered “exogenous testosterone,” from a source outside his body.

The lab told USADA Gatlin was low-mode. “I am not aware of whether we recommended or USADA requested that a Carbon Isotope Ratio test be performed,” Scott said, referring to a test that is both far more sensitive and way more expensive, in the range of several hundred dollars.

In June 2006, the lab performed the CIR test. Bingo. A positive test.

Why did USADA ask for the further analysis that led to the positive?

In another set of stipulated facts, the answer:

At that same 2003 world indoors at which Gatlin won the men’s 60, Michelle Collins won the women’s 200. Her 22.18 would have been an American record but it was never ratified. Instead, after being linked to the BALCO matter, she admitted using illicit substances. Ultimately, she would get a lengthy suspension.

In May 2004, Collins told USADA that Trevor Graham, her former coach, “told her to appear at track events with no drug testing and to use fast-acting drugs to avoid detection.”

She last trained with Graham in 2001, before Gatlin met up with Graham, the legal document stresses.

USADA “considered this information provided by Michelle Collins and decided to test at the 2006 Kansas Relays, an event at which it had not previously tested,” the document says.

Travis Tygart of USADA // Getty Images

In late 2005, USADA notified USA Track & Field and Kansas Relays organizers it would be testing that next April at the meet.

Gatlin was picked for testing after his relay team won first place; he had run the anchor leg. “This selection” for testing “was in accordance with USADA’s routine selection criteria for track and field relay events,” the document says.

When he was on the road, Gatlin had a reputation as the room service king.

He testified, “I have this paranoia about people messing with my food, or especially, from the first incident where I don’t like to let people do anything orally to my food, and my water, and I don’t like people touching my stuff or around me.”

On June 15, 2006, the room service king, ever careful, learned in a three-way call — with his agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, and his parents — that he had tested positive at the Kansas Relays.

Gatlin testified:

“It was a nightmare that I live again, from my first situation, and I found, I prided myself, I would never put myself in that situation again, and it happened to me again, and I remember the only thing that I kept saying over and over was that my life was over. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, because, running is, running is what I love. I love to run. And I never would do anything like that, because I know I have the support of my family and my friends.”

Jeanette Gatlin, in testimony, asked if Justin had ever said “that he knowingly took a substance”:

“Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. He kept on saying, ‘I don’t know how this happened. I don’t know how this happened. I’m careful. I watch everything. I know one thing: I’m dead.’ That’s all my child kept saying, was that he was dead. He was dead.”

Asked what he did in the weeks between when he found out he had tested positive, and July 29, when word went out to the media, Gatlin responded, “Other than cry?”

Jeanette Gatlin was asked if the experience had taken a toll on her son:

“Most definitely. Most definitely.

“When Justin came home,” to Florida from the Sprint Capitol base in Raleigh, “before we went back and relocated him, Justin would be sleeping, you could hear him at night. You could hear him, he just uh-huh, ugh-huh, ugh-huh, you go in there and he is just jumping. He is just jumping. He is cold and sweaty, and he’s crying, and he’s breaking down, when you talk to him, in the daytime, baby, think about it, think about what happened, he just breaks down, he starts crying and he’s shaking and falling apart. He’s not sleeping at night. He’s restless, I’m going through getting up all time of night, going in there and [checking] on him.”

She also testified, “Not only has my child, Justin Gatlin, suffered and [is] still suffering, his name, his reputation. We have all suffered. We have all suffered. I have — I’m bald, not by choice. This is the haircut that anybody that knows me has never seen on me before. I have long hair. My hair was coming out in clumps. I had to go and have my hair cut off through the stress of this. I have never suffered high blood pressure before until this.

“Justin — Justin walks tall, and he’s strong, and he’s strong and he’s positive. But he — I see the hurt in him. I see how he’s just, well, can — Momma, can I buy a pair of jeans? Can I buy a pair of jeans? Do we have money? Can I buy a pair of jeans?”

Gatlin, left, lifting weights with Isiah Young

Nehemiah testified that the second test cost Gatlin “5, 6 million dollars.” Gatlin, Nehemiah said, had  grossed $1.549 million in 2005; projections in 2006 alone, the agent said, were for “anywhere from $2.5 to $3 million” in 2006 alone. Owing to the positive test, Nehemiah said, Gatlin’s 2006 gross: $280,235.

After winning 2004 Olympic gold, Nehemiah said, there had been a meeting with Gatlin, his parents and officials from both Nike and USATF, a “coming-to-Jesus talk.” He said the tenor of the conversation went like this: “OK. You are no longer Justin Gatlin. You are the United States of America. And everywhere you go, you go this great site, and everybody likes you so, you know, there’s a lot that’s being put on your shoulders.”

“Did he embrace that burden?” Nehemiah was asked.

“He embraced it, yes, wholeheartedly.”

Jeanette Gatlin continued: “You know, he’s suffering,” referring to her son. “He doesn’t know where he’s going to get another paycheck, what’s going to happen and how he’s going to continue to live.

“This,” she said, “is his life.”

Shortly after news of the positive test broke, the Escambia County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department asked if Justin could come speak to their graduating cadets. You’re aware, Jeanette Gatlin said, of the case? Yes, came the answer, she said, relating that this nonetheless was the response: “We want Justin to come. We believe in him. We have faith in him.”

He ended up speaking to that cadet class; too, to 4,000 students, high school and college, about the D.A.R.E. anti-drug program, with his mother saying “it was the biggest turnout they ever had”; to church groups — “not our church,” Jeanette Gatlin stressed — where “he spoke to them, and he read from the Bible, and he told them to obey the parents, obey the laws, stay away from drugs, keep their body clean. Keep their minds straight, keep them focused.”

Justin Gatlin spoke as well with Jeff Novitzky, the-then federal agent running the BALCO inquiry. On August 16, 2006, Gatlin met with Novitzky for five and a half hours in New York, voluntarily traveling to the meeting from Florida. At the end of that interview, Novitzky asked Gatlin to make undercover phone calls to Graham, as a means both to judge Gatlin’s credibility and to potentially gather evidence against Graham.

Gatlin agreed.

The former federal agent Jeff Novitzky // Getty Images

In all, Gatlin would make roughly a dozen calls to Graham and Randall Evans, an assistant coach. Throughout, the authorities viewed Gatlin as a cooperating witness.

Novitzky would testify as well.

This exchange, with Tygart:

“Well, did you ask him if he used any prohibited substances?

“Yes.”

“And what was his response to that?"

“His answer was no, never knowingly."

Novitzky also offered this assessment, referring to Gatlin, “Again to the best of my ability, and as I have testified before, throughout this case, I have not obtained any evidence, despite these hiccups and despite these concerns, looking back now historically, I have not obtained any evidence of his knowing receipt and use of banned substances.”

Thus the core question: what happened that prompted the 2006 positive test?

The dog-ate-the-homework theory that got advanced is that masseuse Chris Whetstine rubbed a cream containing steroids on Gatlin.

Where did this story come from?

Gatlin, in testimony, referring to Graham: “He said that he went and looked at the Internet to find out what the cream was that he thought Chris Whetstine used, and he came across DHEA,” banned as  a testosterone precursor.

A moment later, in further testimony: “He said that while Chris was applying the cream on me in Kansas that he saw a — I think he said a pink tube, a white tube and a pink squiggle on it,” purportedly made by Sarati Laboratories, “and he went back and referenced that, and he came up with DHEA.”

Asked if Graham’s “speculation” was “accurate or not,” Gatlin testified:

“It’s a very strong speculation, and I wouldn’t say it was a bull’s eye, a bull’s-eye, but I think that — it’s more of an oval-shaped peg than a square peg fitting in a circle.”

Why, he was asked, put so much weight on what Graham would assert?

“Well, to do research on it, especially doing research with my lawyer at that point in time … we researched DHEA, and some of the stuff that we learned about it, and kind of went along with the story of what happened.”

Gatlin was asked, did you see the tube Whetstine had? No.

Did you ask to see it? No.

So, “you didn’t hear about the tube with the squiggly S on it until after you had been reported positive, correct?” Yes.

“… And the only person that you heard that from was Trevor Graham, correct?” Yes.

Graham did not testify in this hearing. Nor, for that matter, did Evans.

But Whetstine did.

Referring to Graham, Whetstine said, “Well, golly, I thought I was … I mean, in 2006, I would have to say it was probably the best year in our relationship that we ever had. We would go on long walks together, talked about politics, religion, he showed an immense amount of concern for Justin Gatlin in trying to keep him on focused [sic] and on track, so that we could attain our goal."

Answering questions from Tygart:

“Do you have any knowledge of how Justin Gatlin tested positive?"

“None, sir."

“Did you apply any prohibited substances to Mr. Gatlin?"

“No, sir."

“Did you apply testosterone cream to Mr. Gatlin?"

“No, sir."

More:

“When you heard of Justin Gatlin’s positive tests, what came to your mind as the possibility of how this occurred?"

“I had no idea. I had no idea how it could have occurred."

“Did you do any introspection as to whether anything you did might have caused this?"

“Well, I knew that nothing that I did would have inadvertently caused it."

Later, in an exchange with one of the arbitrators supervising the case:

“Have you heard of Sarati Laboratories?"

“No, sir."

“Have you heard of a cream, Deep Hydrating Essential Aloe Cream?"

“Only after this investigation."

“Did you ever have any tubes that were white tubes with pink squiggles or stylized letter S's on them?"

“No. I can provide you a little insight into — I’m going to step out on a limb here, and call it Mr. Graham’s alibi. And let you know — I want to be careful, because I don’t want to be inflammatory.

“I’m a pretty big supporter of Justin Gatlin, and I don’t want to believe that Justin did anything wrong, OK?

“But in the light of the truth and fairness, where they’re concocting this story from is that my sponsor Biotone, OK? There’s a — I am given a product to distribute from Biotone, BioFreeze, to athletes and therapists; not only therapists that are under my direction, but other therapists, who would be, you know, ostensibly of some notoriety, if they were to be making a plane trip from one place to another.

“And one of the bottles that Biotone has — I think it’s called the Dual Purpose Massage Cream, a product that I don’t use. I use an oil, which I may have already described in my testimony. And this Biotone Dual Purpose Massage Cream has a pink band on it. 

“And so, somehow, they have leapt from the Prefontaine Classic," an annual track meet in Eugene, Oregon, "which is probably, I think, June 7th — some time in early June when that product first showed up for distribution to my staff, courtesy of Biotone, and something that they claim that happened months prior.

“It’s a product I don’t even use. It’s solely for distribution to my staff."

“… But you don’t know that the Dual Purpose Massage Cream that you have described contains any prohibited substance?"

“If that were the case, every athlete at the Prefontaine Classic that year would have tested positive."

“Why is that so? Because you said you don’t use it."

“Because I distribute it to 17 other therapists. I give out a goodie bag that has all Biotone and Biofreeze products, PowerBar and literature from StrongLite …"

Whetstine also testified that in May 2004, he went with Evans to a pharmacy in Monterrey, Mexico, where he — Whetstine — bought Voltaren cream, an Advil-like anti-inflammatory that is not uncommon in American track and field circles, even though it’s not typically available in the United States.

“And I would like to note at that time,” Whetstine testified, “I watched the witness Randall Evans buy pure testosterone.”

At a different point in the hearing, Whetstine was asked by another of the arbitrators to elaborate.

“You made a reference to Randall Evans purchasing testosterone in Mexico?"

“Yes."

“Do you know what he was using that testosterone for?"

“Well, he told me it was for sexual performance. I don’t care what he was using it for. I was furious. He — I was livid."

“This was in 1998?"

“No, this was in 2004, yeah, because he was in Mexico in 2003 and we went back in 2004. And as he was purchasing two packages that had 8 vials apiece. I mean, he was saying it was for topical application for sexual enhancement. And these were bottles — you know, like they have the — like a skinny neck, like a tight neck with a — like an aluminum cap? And that to me means that — that’s like what you see in the hospital. I mean, that’s something that you can inject in somebody.

“And I was furious. And as he was paying for it, I left. I wanted nothing to do with that and told him so. Made sure that I was not in the airport with him, that we left on — you know, did not arrive at the same time for our departures, called my girlfriend — actually, on Justin Gatlin’s phone, called my girlfriend, expressed that I was furious.

“And she inquired about it, and you know, I get — it does have some levity to it. She said, well, if that’s what he’s saying, honey, you don’t need any of that stuff. I mean, she was joking with me."

“So why were you furious?"

“I was extremely furious at why — you know, I was furious."

“Why were you furious?"

“He’s buying testosterone, sir. That’s a prohibited substance. I don’t want any exposure or knowledge of anything."

“So I mean, were you — did you consider that he was buying it for other athletes?"

“I didn’t care what he was doing. I didn’t want him doing it in front of me."

“When you say it’s a prohibited substance, I’m a little bit — it was legal for him to buy that in Mexico, correct?"

“I don’t know. You know, the story is you can get whatever you want in Mexico, and his wife is Spanish. He actually says his wife works for the FBI, was his claim, and she was an FBI agent and was bilingual, and so, I guess he had some lingo, but — what was the question?"

“Well, I guess I’m just trying to figure out — I’m trying to figure out why were you furious? It seems to me if he was buying it for himself, it would be OK. If he was in Mexico, obviously, he shouldn’t be transporting it across the border.”

“But if he was buying it for other people, it seems to me — especially for athletes — that would be a valid reason for being furious."

“Sir? My integrity, hard work and my word are all that I have to go on in this business. I do not want to be exposed to, have knowledge of any illegal activity, OK? And I don’t care what he’s buying it for. I don’t care what he’s buying it for. OK?"

Gatlin had long had problems with tweaky hamstrings. That was the case in the spring of 2006. HIs right hamstring was not responding.

Red blood cells take oxygen to the muscles. When the body can’t make enough red blood cells, one response is to take vitamin B12.

Taking the vitamin B12 orally was not doing the job, Gatlin testified. So he asked a doctor what to do; the doctor recommended a B12 injection directly into the hamstring itself.

It is also the case — well-known in the appropriate circles — that administering testosterone directly would help in recovery.

Who, Gatlin was asked on the record, did he talk with about the prospect of getting a B12 shot?

Graham, Evans and, as well, another sprinter who at one time was in the Sprint Capitol camp.

On April 6 or 7, Gatlin testified, he got a shot of what he believed to be B12.

At his house. From Evans. With Graham in attendance.

Whose idea was it, Gatlin was asked, to get a B12 shot? To ask the doctor about such a shot?

Graham, Gatlin testified.

“Did you — was it normal for you to get any sort of a shot by Randall Evans?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Had you ever gotten a shot from Randall Evans?”

“No.”

“Were you concerned about getting a shot from Randall Evans?”

No, because the doctor had “explained to me,” Gatlin said, “that Randall Evans was taking classes to become more medically inclined under his wing …”

“Before Mr. Evans injected you in your hamstring,” Gatlin was also asked, “did you ask him whether he had ever injected performance-enhancing substances into any athletes?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I didn’t believe he did. It was a B12 — sitting right here, it’s a B12 shot. That’s why I was concerned about my leg. I was concerned if he was juicing up some of the athletes that I didn’t know.”

At another point in the testimony:

“… You are a gold medalist, double world champion, and you allow this person, who is learning to give injections, to inject you in your hamstring while you are injured?”

“He wasn’t a person who was learning. He was my assistant coach.”

At the same time, Gatlin also sought to depict himself as not completely trusting of Evans. Before submitting to the injection, Gatlin said, he looked at the package: “It was a white box, and it said B12, and it said ‘Vitamins’ right across the front of it. It was an unopened package. It was sealed, and so was — the needle was also sealed,” just “a regular needle.”

A B12 injection comes as a clear red liquid solution. The red is vivid.

Crucially, Gatlin was never asked whether that B12 shot was red — neither by his own lawyer or on cross-examination.

Moreover, B12 injections are typically administered via the buttocks or shoulder, areas less susceptible to pain.

The day after the B12 shot, Gatlin did testify, he took a Voltaren pill — supplied, he said, by Evans.

The pill and shot came about a week before the Mt. SAC meet in California. There, Gatlin ran a relay leg; his team took second.

A week later: the Kansas Relays.

After Mt. SAC, Gatlin testified, he felt like he was back to 100 percent.

Again, Evans did not testify. Nor did the doctor.

Novitzky, meanwhile, was on the stand for this from USADA’s Tygart: “OK. Agent Novitzky, have you — are you aware that Randall Evans has denied giving an injection of B12?”

Objections came from both Gatlin’s lawyer and from government attorneys, and the question never did get answered.

Novitzky did testify that during that five hour-plus interview, Gatlin “categorized the pill .. as a ‘Voltaren bean.’ When myself and my partner heard the word ‘bean’ used — based on our investigation to that period of time, we had heard testosterone and Decadron,” a corticosteroid, “being referred to as a ‘bean,’ so it kind of spurred our interest when we heard that.”

During that interview, Gatlin was asked to describe the pill.

Novitzky testified, “He described it as green with a V on it.”

He added, “This wasn’t an instance where we just left it. We followed up and said, ‘Are you sure that’s what it looked like?’

“He said, ‘Yeah, he was sure it was green with a V on it.’

“We came to find out later, much later, months, maybe a year later, that he told someone else that the pill was brown, and brown is the color of these testosterone and Decadron pills, so we had some concern about that.

“We actually had Mr. Gatlin, his mother and [Gatlin’s lawyer] on a phone call, and brought that to their attention. They did come up with an explanation about his confusion regarding the coloring, and that he had been taking an Excedrin, which was a green, but these Voltaren pills that he had been taking all along were brown. You know a little bit unclear, where that leaves him, you know, in the credibility issue in that department.”

Another matter of credibility, Novitzky said, related to Angel “Memo” Heredia, long believed in track circles to be a chemist of considerable repute — who, as Nehemiah related it in testimony, “was not a Trevor Graham fan.”

Nehemiah, saying he was seeking answers to how Gatlin could have tested positive, commissioned Heredia to write a report.

Ultimately, Nehemiah said, the report “wasn’t comprehensive at all,” describing it as a “waste of our time.”

The report, after much negotiating, cost $10,000. But because of an accounting glitch, Heredia got paid $10,600.

“The Memo memo,” as it came to be called, ultimately made its way to Novitzky. From the agent’s point of view, the concern was simple: the government had no idea initially that Gatlin’s entourage had retained Heredia.

“This was all unbeknownst to us,” Novitzky said. “He didn’t — we found out about this second-hand, not from them. And that was a big issue toward us, in terms of, you know, cooperation and credibility, because typically, when we’re dealing with cooperators and looking at these issues, you know, one of the issues with a cooperator is full disclosure of everything.

“And while we did get some explanation that they weren’t sure that we needed to know this, and they thought we already knew some of this, the bottom line, it was not the case that they told us this was going on when it was going on. So that was another issue that came into play.”

It might be reasonable to assume that Gatlin would — in his own case — get some benefit from cooperating with Novitzky and the feds. In fact, he got none.

The majority of the three-member arbitration panel that heard the case noted it “finds much merit in Mr. Gatlin’s position and the facts of his cooperation, which were substantiated by the pertinent government witness, supports the extensive, voluntary and unique nature of Mr. Gatlin’s assistance.”

Even so, the rule at instance was super-precise: “substantial assistance” had to result directly in an anti-doping agency “discovering or establishing” doping by another person.

Yes, Gatlin cooperated, USADA acknowledged; yes, he took considerable risk; but, no, the dozen or so phone calls didn’t lead directly to any such violation.

As far as the Whetstine theory, the panel majority said, “the fact is that there is no substantiation of Mr. Gatlin’s naked claim.” It added, “There was no evidence that any of the creams used by the physical therapist actually tested positive.”

It said, “More importantly, the evidence submitted by Mr. Gatlin did not eliminate the possibility of intentional use or the possibility that he was the unwitting victim of doping by members of his coaching staff.”

Further, “Simply stated, this Panel does not know with any degree of confidence how the testosterone entered Mr. Gatlin’s system; transdermally or by pill or injection.”

That being the case, it said, “USADA makes a strong argument. If Mr. Gatlin cannot prove how the testosterone entered his system, and he did not, he cannot prove two significant facts. First, that it was the physical therapist that placed the testosterone in his system transdermally; and second, that he did not intentionally take testosterone.”

“Finally,” it said, “while Mr. Gatlin seems like a complete gentleman, and was genuinely and deeply upset during his testimony, the Panel cannot eliminate the possibility that Mr. Gatlin intentionally took testosterone, or accepted it from a coach, even though he testified to the contrary.”

It gave him four years off.

A 2008 review by another three-member panel, this one from the Swiss-based Court of Appeal for Sport, left it at that: four years.

Those four years, Gatlin said in an interview, were miserable. He moved to Atlanta and, to make money, taught sprinting to 8-year-olds.

“One thing I learned on my journey and it’s really true, kids are the least judgmental. Kids looked at me and never brought up any incident, never questioned anything, and they said, ‘Mr. Gatlin, I am just trying to get fast like you. Teach me.' ”

There was that. But he said, “I lost every endorsement. I lost everything.”

He also said, “I was so depressed, Me, my mother and my father, we are a core. We became stronger when i went through my ordeal. Going through the ordeal broke us down. My mother lost hair. For a woman, that’s a big thing. She prayed every day to the point where she was like, what is prayer doing? Nothing is being answered! She doubted her faith.

“I would honestly say my dad was more depressed than anybody. His son carries his name and gave him the most pride, and to go through what I went through made him so depressed. He didn’t talk a lot.”

As for Justin Gatlin himself, during those four years, he said, “I think that’s where track Justin met real Justin.

“It’s not a cliché to speak in the third-person sometime. I have to tell you how I experienced it. I didn’t see any worth my life. I wasn’t running. I wasn’t being acknowledged. I was looked upon as the bad guy. I was ready to enlist in the Army. I was ready to become a police officer. This is real: if I die, if I took a bullet, at least I took it for something I believe in — America.

“I have never been a person to have suicidal thoughts. But I said, ‘What is the worth of my life? Who am I?’ That’s when I had to say: ‘There is more to Justin than just running.’ “

It was with that attitude that Gatlin came back to the sport in 2010.

He worked himself back to a bronze at the 2012 London Games in the 100, behind Bolt.

The turning point came the next year, at the 2013 worlds in Moscow. The 100 went down in a pouring rainstorm. Bolt won, again, in 9.77, crossing the finish at the precise moment lightning flashed across the sky — an incredible, indeed indelible, picture.

That frame also shows Gatlin. He is behind Bolt, and to the Jamaican’s left. Gatlin would finish second, eight-hundredths back, 9.85.

Usain Bolt winning the 2013 100 meters in Moscow as lightning flashes, Gatlin eight-hundredths of a second back // Getty Images

Sprint coach (and former champion) Dennis Mitchell

Gatlin said, “I don’t want to step out of my boundaries and my respect for other opponents [but] when I look at that picture, that’s when I said to myself, ‘I think I can beat this guy. I can challenge this guy outright.’ “ 

To do so, however, he had to submit — to his coach, Dennis Mitchell. Gatlin said he had to accept Mitchell’s word as gospel, to let technique do the work for him in his races.

Until that lightning flash in 2013, Gatlin said, he had — whether consciously or not — been trying to do it his way. From that moment on, he said, it has been Mitchell’s way.

Mitchell typically draws a torrent of criticism from those who know he, too, tested positive during his days as a champion sprinter. There’s a back story there, though. Mitchell tested positive for what he relates as inadvertent use of DHEA. But who voluntarily testified for the government in its investigation of Graham? Among others, Mitchell.

Mitchell said, "I testified under oath in front of the feds that Trevor Graham coerced me into taking growth hormone."

He also said, “When you are dealing with the federal government the first thing you don’t do is lie. Because they will get you.”

“I was a witness for the good guys,” he added. “I wasn’t prosecuted. I wasn’t threatened. I wasn’t put on trial for lying. I was a 20-minute witness for the federal government, against Trevor Graham, to tell everything about my life and his life that would incriminate him. That’s what I did. And I took a hit for the good guys.

“And I knew that when I did that, either the sport was going to herald me as a good guy or they were going to kick me out as a villain. I rolled the dice. I said,’Dennis, everything you have been through in the sport, all the great achievements you have had in the sport, the sport will not turn its back on you.’ "

Doing what Mitchell says, Gatlin has not lost since the end of 2013. This year, he has run 9.74 in the 100, 19.57 in the 200.

The American records: 9.69 (Tyson Gay, Shanghai, 2009), 19.32 (Michael Johnson, Atlanta Olympics, 1996).

Under Mitchell's direction, Gatlin has lost roughly 30 pounds; the science of sprinting increasingly has come to recognize that leg strength -- not being top-heavy -- is what counts. He also has worked in the weight room to re-make his slimmer self and at improving his start.

"I wear medium shirts now," Gatlin said of his weight loss. "A large would be hanging off."

"Any person who has watched this kid, who knows track and field, can see the technique changes," Mitchell said, adding a moment later, "2014 is the year he woke up smart. He put his mind to it and went for it."

“When I step on the track, my percentage of worrying about opponents in the race has dropped significantly,” Gatlin said. “All I worry about is executing my technique, executing my race strategy and competing against time.”

He also said, “I feel there’s a difference between being in the zone and being dialed in. I have learned that the last two years. The zone is good; a lot of athletes are in the zone. But when you are in the zone there still can come a lot of variables; you can still worry about certain opponents, about what can go wrong. When you are dialed in, you worry about one thing,” execution of race strategy, “and that one thing will handle everything else.”

As an example, he said, “If you look back at all the races I have had just this year, if you look back with a careful eye, you will see difference. From the 19.68 I ran,” a 200 last July 18 at a Diamond League meet in Monaco, “to the 19.57,” this June 28 at the U.S. nationals, "the end of my race and my last 100 meters was way more relaxed, way more turnover.

‘I wasn’t fighting my technique. I just let my technique turn over. In my 19.68 race, I was more worried about running the curve.”

In his home bathroom, Gatlin said, he has hung what he calls a “vision board,” posts of what he wants to achieve. On the board, he said, are the times 19.30 and 9.68.

“At one point in time, my vision board was names. I have changed that. Now it’s numbers. Now it opens up a different door.”

Anything is possible in track and field, which for years and years has been marred by doping, and at the highest levels. As difficult as it may be for some skeptics, indeed cynics, the matter is straightforward: to believe that Justin Gatlin is doping is to believe he does not want to go through that door.

To assume that Gatlin is cheating is to believe he would risk his new Nike deal. Mitchell, too, has a new deal, and he and his wife have a baby. The mortgage gets tough to pay when there's no income.

Beyond all that, to believe that Gatlin is doping is to say he wants to stumble back to the wilderness — lost, angry, the sort of son who would disrespect his parents, who would make his mother’s hair fall out again, who would risk the certainty of a third strike and a lifetime away from the very thing that gives him so much joy, indeed meaning, in life.

Which seems more logical? Which more reasonable?

“I found me,” Gatlin said of his four years away.

He said, “I had to step back and realize, you know, just because everyone doesn’t agree with what I am doing doesn’t mean they are against me.

“Just because someone doesn’t step up doesn’t mean they aren’t for me.”