Usain Bolt has revealed his anger at drug cheats who drag the reputation of his sport through the mud – and warned Justin Gatlin that he is in no mood to let a two-time drug cheat take his world 100 metres title.
The Jamaican, who has been hampered by a pelvic injury this summer, races for the first time in almost six weeks at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at the Olympic Stadium this evening.
The race is likely to prove a very good indication of his fitness one month out from the World Championships in Beijing.
The world’s fastest man has looked anything but that this season. He is 62nd in the world rankings in the 100m with a best of 10.12 seconds, set in April in what was little more than an early-season race designed to blow away the cobwebs.
Gatlin, in contrast, has run under 9.8secs four times this year, extending his unbeaten run to 23 races and establishing himself as the strong favourite for the world title.
Bolt’s 2015 200m best of 20.13secs is also pedestrian by his standards, while Gatlin has the four fastest times of the year and tops the world list with 19.57.
But the six-time Olympic champion, who insisted he had no concerns about his fitness and also dismissed any suggestion of only doing one event in Beijing, said: “I never doubt myself. I never worry about one person. I know he’s been doing good this season, but I’m not worried.”
The prospect of unrepentant two-time doper Gatlin winning the blue-riband event in Beijing – or even completing a sprint double – is one which many within the sport find hard to stomach.
At the age of 33 he is running faster than ever, with a new personal best of 9.74 set in May.
Gatlin’s American team-mate Tyson Gay, who was banned after testing positive for an anabolic steroid, is back running under 9.9, while Bolt’s compatriot Asafa Powell, who served a suspension following a positive test for a banned stimulant, is ranked second in the world this year with 9.81. And Bolt admits he gets angry that the actions of a minority put the whole sport under a cloud.
He said: “Yes, definitely, especially throughout the years when you work hard and the sport’s getting back a good reputation and then it slides back when other athletes decide they want to do the wrong thing.
“It does upset me, because then everybody starts pointing fingers again and starts speculating. It doesn’t help the sport in any way, at times I do get frustrated and angry.”
Gay remains the athlete with whom Bolt has the biggest gripe.
“I competed with Tyson throughout the years,” he said. “I had so much respect for him as a competitor, I looked at him as one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever competed against.
“He was dedicated, he worked hard.
“That’s one of the ones that really hurt me. It really hurts as an athlete to know that the person you really look up to is banned for drugs.”
And Bolt also reckons Gatlin, who returned from his second doping ban in 2010 and has at times appeared to revel in his portrayal as the villain of sprinting, has learned to be more complimentary of the world record holder.
“The one thing you learn, saying bad things about me doesn’t help the situation,” he said.
“I think somebody’s talked to him and said, ‘Listen, stop saying bad things about Usain, start saying nice things and maybe he wont be angry, he won’t work any harder’.
“But it’s too late.”