Justin Gatlin

Christian Coleman, and recasting the media narrative

Christian Coleman, and recasting the media narrative

DOHA, Qatar — The day after 23-year-old Christian Coleman became The Man, king of the 100 meters, the biggest deal in track and field, he was still the same guy he had been, always was, a grounded and sensible young man from a great American family.

As he made the rounds Sunday at the Team USA hotel, this was the Coleman ‘entourage’: his mom, Daphne, who holds a Ph.D. in education and is an instructional coach in the Atlanta schools; his dad, Seth, who is the media relations manager for the Atlanta public school system; an agent; and a manager. 

Where was the wacky scene so long associated with Usain Bolt? Where was the commotion? Where was — all of that?

People, don’t misunderstand. 

Christian Coleman is not Bolt, and the time has come for everyone to understand that is a good thing. 

The time is also now for everyone to understand that Coleman has been nothing but a good dude, and that the media narrative that has enveloped him to a significant degree over the past several weeks — totally unfairly — needs to be recast, particularly because Coleman’s victory Saturday at these IAAF 2019 championships arguably makes him the face of track and field heading into the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

Christian Coleman has something to prove -- and proves it, in 9.76 seconds

Christian Coleman has something to prove -- and proves it, in 9.76 seconds

DOHA, Qatar — There really wasn’t any doubt Saturday who was going to win the men’s 100 meters at these IAAF world championships.

Christian Coleman was it, in a runaway.

The only question, especially after Coleman came out blazing sub-10 in the prelims and went sub 9.9 in the semis and in that race ran hard for only 85 meters, was in what time and by how much.

Coleman, who burst onto the scene two years ago with a world championships 100 silver, dominated the late Saturday night final. He literally did run away with it, in 9.76 seconds, fastest in the world in 2019. It was his personal best time and the sixth-fastest in history.

Justin Gatlin, the London 2017 gold medalist, the man who dethroned Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in Bolt’s final championship 100, scraped into Friday’s final after coming in third in his semifinal. Incredibly, he then took second in the championship run, in 9.89. Andre DeGrasse of Canada got third, in a personal best 9.90.

Track and field World Cup: 'fixture' or one-off?

Track and field World Cup: 'fixture' or one-off?

LONDON — Keep it simple, stupid, Bill Clinton would have advised, and here is the problem with track and field, exemplified with this weekend’s first Athletics World Cup back at Olympic Stadium

This meet sought so desperately to be so many things — too many things — to so many people on so many levels. 

Organizers tried to put together a world-class meet in about six months though the schedule of world sport is already jammed to the max, the calendar of track and field is itself a mess and, maybe, most of all, it’s unclear how a meet like this can draw the world’s best runners, jumpers and throwers in a way that everyone — and in particular, a wide range of athletes — can make money. Real money.

That last bit requires a further set of questions, all fundamental. Track and field is a professional sport. What is a reasonable payday? For a star? For someone who is in his or her first pro meet? For someone who, say, runs the open 400 meters as opposed to someone who runs but a leg in a relay? For someone who pulls double duty? Should the pay standards be different for track athletes and those in the field events? 

Switching gears: who thought a trophy should cost $400,000, and why?

So many threads. Pull, and it’s clear why the tapestry of track and field is at once so beautiful and so frayed.

The track and field calendar is a shambles, ugh

The track and field calendar is a shambles, ugh

Mike Rodgers ran the 100 meters in 9.89 seconds in the preliminary rounds of the U.S. track and field national championships Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

It was the fastest 100 meters, anywhere in the world, so far in 2018.

This raises several questions.

Why is Rodgers running that fast in — the prelims? 

Why, moreover, is a 33-year-old Mike Rodgers running in the 9.8s again after a 2017 that saw him run a best 10-flat and a 9.97 in 2016?

Rodgers ran 9.92 in Prague on June 4. And — here is the inexplicable thing about professional track and field — it has to be asked: why he is running that fast in 2018? For what reason?

Pride gets no one paid. Respect is awesome, and 9.89 is respectfully quick. But, again, track is a professional sport. 

And this is what in track circles is called an “off-year.” There’s no Olympics, no world championships. 

A Duke tennis player's case and fairness for Justin Gatlin

A Duke tennis player's case and fairness for Justin Gatlin

A few days ago, the International Tennis Federation announced that Spencer Furman, a top player at Duke, had been cleared in a doping case leveled after he tested positive last September 9 in the qualifying draw of the Atlantic Tire Championships, an ATP challenger, in Cary, N.C.

Long story short: Furman was using a prescribed ADHD medicine “to help him concentrate while studying at university,” according to the ITF release. This medicine, Vyvanse, contained a stimulant, D-amphetamine, on the banned list. Oops. He applied for a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption. 

When agreed by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the anti-doping agency at issue, a retroactive TUE may be granted “on the grounds of fairness.” WADA so agreed. The charge was dropped.

So?

So what?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly — exactly — the fact pattern that got the sprinter Justin Gatlin a one-year suspension when he was a college kid at Tennessee in 2001. 

Zero facts implicating Justin Gatlin -- that's a 'scandal'?

Zero facts implicating Justin Gatlin -- that's a 'scandal'?

In 1964, the United States Supreme Court decided a case called New York Times v. Sullivan. It established, in libel law matters, what is called the “actual malice” standard.

Before you start rolling your eyes and getting anxious about a bunch of legalese, relax. This is not complicated. Libel, at its core, involves a published statement that damages someone’s reputation. What the Supreme Court said is this: if you publish something about a public official or a public figure, it is “actual malice” if you do so knowing it is false or if you acted in what the court called a reckless disregard for the truth.

This brings us to the American sprinter Justin Gatlin, and the report published Monday in the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. There is zero question Gatlin is a public figure. Can there be any question the lengthy story the Telegraph printed was aimed directly at Gatlin, and his reputation? 

The 2017 IAAF world championships disconnect

The 2017 IAAF world championships disconnect

LONDON — No matter if it’s sports or what journalists call hard news, all young reporters learn early on a truism. Whether it’s a big court case, a political race or a major sports event like these 2017 IAAF track and field world championships or an NFL Super Bowl, there are always — always — at least two storylines.

There’s the action itself.

And then there’s what’s happening around it.

With the 2017 worlds nearing the halfway mark, it’s entirely unclear whether they seem destined to be remembered for the track and field itself, which truly has been remarkable if not historic.

A lifetime ban for athletes for doping is a non-starter, and other cultural differences

A lifetime ban for athletes for doping is a non-starter, and other cultural differences

LONDON — The marathon course here at these 2017 IAAF world championships started and finished at Tower Bridge. Just a few steps away, of course, is Tower Hill, where the likes of Anne Boleyn met her fate.

It’s fascinating, those historical and cultural markers that, in turn, frame — consciously or otherwise — national identity.

In Britain, one might argue, right is right, wrong is wrong, rules are rules, black is black, white is white. When you make a mistake, it’s off with your head. You wonder why the Pilgrims wanted out? The United States, by definition, is a land of second chances. The American national narrative  — the founding national story, told over and again — is redemption.

To be clear: find fault all you want with these oversimplifications. Detail, if you please, the countless exceptions.

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.