Michael Johnson on Gatlin's Reinstatement

By Michael Johnson
. . . More controversy was thrown up by the men’s 100m heats, which always promise excitement at the US trials with so much talent on show. The 2004 Olympic gold medallist, Justin Gatlin was, of course, the favourite.

New rules place the entire field of athletes under caution if any runner in the field makes a false start. After a false start by an athlete in Gatlin’s heat, Gatlin then false started, disqualifying himself from the competition and, as a result, preventing him from qualifying for the 100m at the World Championships in Helsinki in August. However, after a protest by Gatlin he was reinstated.

USA Track and Field’s official comment was that they had determined that the athlete next to Gatlin had flinched, thereby inducing Gatlin to move. But if Gatlin was therefore wrongly disqualified, why wasn’t the athlete who supposedly flinched then thrown out?

And if the athlete flinched enough to pull Gatlin off the line, why didn’t the movement register on the computer?

Ultimately Gatlin won the final in impressive fashion, running 10.08sec into a 2.3m per second headwind. But the problem I have with the whole scenario is not so much that Gatlin was reinstated, but the reason that was given - which now opens up a situation where any person who is charged with a false start can cry that someone flinched and caused them to move.

I would have been more willing to accept a decision by USATF to reinstate Gatlin simply because he was the Olympic champion and it was therefore in the best interests of the sport that he should be allowed to qualify for the World -Championships.

Fortunately, there was other excitement at the championships that was of a more positive nature. My only two clients as an agent, Olympic 400m champion Jeremy Wariner and his training partner, Darold Williamson, who had previously run the fastest time in the world this year, finished first and second in the 400m, with Wariner running 44.20sec. That time was even more impressive given that he almost fell over coming out of the blocks and executed his race poorly. He is clearly ready to run under 44sec.

Veteran Allen Johnson won the 110m hurdles with the fastest time in the world at 12.99sec. And one of the other bright young stars in the sport, Sanya Richards, ran impressively in the women’s 400m with 49.28sec. Richards has joined Wariner and Williamson to be coached by my former coach, Clyde Hart, and it has obviously paid off for her.

The American team are young and full of talent and I expect they will be even stronger than last year in Athens, where a mix of young and experienced talent topped the medal table.

This year the younger generation have just about completely taken over and they should be even more impressive than last year.

No-one asked me but . . . I’m glad Gatlin will be in Helsinki because I think he is a likeable, media-friendly personality. He seems real and it’s been a while since we had a guy like that waving the sprint banner.

I preferred the old start rule (you’re only out if you prsonally break twice), ahead of the latest and the previous.

But if you’re going to have a rule, then stick with it; don’t play favourites which is what happened at the US titles. Why weren’t both guys thrown out, just like Asafa Powell had to cop it along with Drummond in the Paris quarter-final?

I think the reinstatement was a cynical manipulation of the situation and the rules be damned. Better to just get rid of the rule than flaunt it in such a way. Watch this space then in Helsinki.

KK, I can see where you are coming from but I tend to disagree. I think the athlete should be given a right to appeal the decision, and upon review of the evidence, a final decision is made. In the case of illegal reaction times, this is especially so, after all, the athlete did move after the gun.

Johnson makes a good point about it being in the best interest of the sport though - Greene pulls up, Gatlin is unable to qualify; suddenly the blue ribbon event of World Champs becomes a one man race.

Also Gatlin’s reaction was .095 which registers as a false start. I never liked that rule. As athletes continue to push the world mark, don’t you think eventually more and more people will have reaction times under .1? Another stupid rule IMO…track seems to be full of them.

What happens when Asafa has a reaction time of .09 and would run 9.70 but they false start him, he sits in the blocks then runs 9.80. very possible

That should not be an excuse, I believe!
I bet if the same thing had happened to Asafa, he wouldn’t be so kind…

That’s the point, isn’t it. Gatlin records .095 reaction which by definition is a false start. End of story. Goodbye . . . except if you are America’s best chance.

Either the US interpretation of the IAAF rule is incorrect, or the disqualification of Drummond and Powell in Paris 2003 was incorrect. They cannot both be incorrect, nor can they both be correct.

I believe the US jury of appeal took the expedient option - because they could get away with it “at home”.

And I wonder if - should Gatlin win the world title and the prizemoney and No.1 world ranking (with it’s sponsor bonus implications for Gatlin and for those who are denied the top spot) - whether there will be legal implications for the IAAF or even for the USATF?

But as I said before, I think Gatlin himself can be a great asset to this world sport so long as he doesn’t become embroiled in controversy - of any kind. :slight_smile:

“Only in America”(Don King)
Should Carl have ran at the 88 oly.