IAAF president must be decisive after jeers for 100m winner Justin Gatlin, twice banned for drug offences, show fans’ patience over doping has snapped
On the eve of these world championships Sebastian Coe made a claim so startling it stopped some listeners in their tracks. Doping, he said, was no longer athletics’ biggest challenge, rather it was the need to lure new fans. It was as bold as it was reckless and it took only two days to unravel spectacularly with Justin Gatlin’s victory over Usain Bolt in the 100m final – along with the savage chorus of boos that bookended it.
Inevitably the reaction to Bolt’s defeat was binary – the Jamaican the shining knight, Gatlin the super-villain. And no sooner had the boos subsided than there were also dire predictions about track and field’s future. But who could blame the doubters? Two years ago when Bolt beat Gatlin by 0.01sec to win 100m gold in Beijing, the BBC’s Steve Cram had insisted that the Jamaican had saved his sport. What were the public supposed to think now?