Thanks to U.S. swimmer Lilly King and Australian swimmer Mack Horton, a lot of attention has been put toward athletes with previous doping violations competing in the 2016 Olympics.
The latest athlete to be questioned about their past is U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin. Following her gold medal win in the 100-meter backstroke Monday, King not only brought up her Russian counterpart’s doping past, she went after fellow Americans like Gatlin and questioned whether he should be competing in Rio.
“Do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team? They shouldn’t. It is unfortunate we have to see that,” King said.
But, King said, she had to respect the rules.
Gatlin got his chance to respond Wednesday, and did so in an interview with Pat Graham and Eddie Pells of The Associated Press.
“At the end of the day, the time has been served. I’ve served that time,” the 34-year-old Gatlin told AP on Wednesday. “I’ve dealt with that punishment. I’ve moved forward.”
…”People want to label people and that’s all they want to do,” Gatlin said. “They don’t want to get to know them, they don’t want to understand the story, in-depth.”
…”I’ve worked hard, all the way from the bottom when I had nothing,” Gatlin said. “I worked hard to work back to where I’m at now. I don’t understand. The system has worked. I think people need to stop looking at trying to be the judge, the jury and executioner and let the system do its job.”
Gatlin heads into Rio with two drug violations on his record. The first came due to a positive test involving amphetamines, but it was later determined that the drugs were not for doping, but rather to treat attention-deficit disorder. The 2004 gold medalist did test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2006, however, and served a four-year ban.
But as Gatlin said, he has worked his way back from the suspension and is ready to compete in Rio. Many believe the American sprinter is Usain Bolt’s toughest competition in the 100. It is still unclear, however, how Gatlin will be received when he hits the track for the first time on Saturday.
Heading into this year’s games, doping was already going to be a big topic with Russia’s usage of PEDs. Thanks to King and her pointer finger, this controversy may have found even more legs.