London: Sebastian Coe said he hoped the crowd would desist from booing newly-crowned 100 metres world champion Justin Gatlin at the medals ceremony later on Sunday mainly for superstar Usain Bolt’s sake.
Gatlin — who served two doping bans — has been roundly booed by the spectators at the London Stadium.
The adverse reaction reached its nadir after he won Saturday’s final denying Bolt gold in his last individual championship final — the crowd jeering him whilst chanting bronze medalist Bolt’s name.
Coe, president of the sport’s governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), told the BBC the crowd should take into account that Bolt would also be at the medals ceremony.
“I don’t know what will happen but we have to remember that we’re saying goodbye to an athlete who has done an extraordinary amount for the sport,” said British athletics legend Coe, who won Olympic 1500m gold in 1980 and 1984.
“Gatlin is eligible to compete. It’s not the most exciting day in prospect for me but he has to be accorded some respect.”
Coe, who has taken a firm line on doping and admitted before he became president that seeing dopers win world titles made him “queasy”, admitted 35-year-old Gatlin’s victory was not a script writer’s dream.
He praised Bolt — who still could pick up a 12th world title as he has the 4x100m relay to run — for bein generous in defeat and defending Gatlin’s being there.
“It’s not the perfect script,” said Coe.
“I thought Usain was very generous with the observations he made.
“That must have been a bitter event for him to swallow. He was bigger than the moment and it typifies his career.”
Gatlin — who won 100m Olympic gold in 2004 and the sprint double at the 2005 world championships before serving a four year ban from 2006-10 — showed great character to not let the hostile atmosphere get to him and put the boos down more to his being a serious rival to Bolt.
“I came back in 2010, I got no boos. 2011 got no boos. 2012, here, I got no boos. 2013 no boos, 2014 no boos, 2015 no boos,” said Gatlin.
“You know something, I don’t think it’s about me personally, I just think it’s about, it’s, it’s such a sensational rivalry between, against Usain Bolt and anything, I accept that I’m one of his top rivals and I respect that.”
Coe, who gave a lead to other sports authorities over the Russian doping scandal barring them from competing en masse from the Rio Olympics and saw the IAAF retain the ban on their competing as a nation last week, said he agreed with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness who said there should be life-time bans for dopers.
“So would I and so would the majority of our sport,” said Coe.
“I’m not going to close the door on lifetime bans but we’ve constantly tried it and lost it.
“It’s worth remembering that Gatlin’s first ban was for amphetamines, and the case against him was at the more serious end.
“That then got watered down. We then had the second major infringement. We applied for an eight-year ban and again that got lost,” added the 60-year-old.
Coe’s concerns about the medal ceremony were also echoed by Britain’s 200m 2000 Olympic silver medalist Darren Campbell.
“I didn’t enjoy the booing, but I fully appreciate and totally understand why the crowd reacted that way,” he told the BBC.
“I fear for the medal ceremony. The best way we can show we’re disgruntled is silence.
“We have two other athletes who will be part of that medal ceremony and, especially for Usain Bolt, you don’t want his last memory in the sport to be him on the podium with boos ringing around.”
Published Date: Aug 06, 2017 08:45 pm | Updated Date: Aug 06, 2017 08:45 pm