American sprinter Justin Gatlin is to boycott the British media amid claims of "biased" coverage during the ongoing world athletics championships in Beijing, according to his agent.
Gatlin, who has twice been suspended for doping, finished second behind Usain Bolt in the final of the men’s 100 metres on Sunday. As noted by Owen Gibson of the Guardian, on BBC’s coverage, commentator Steve Cram said “he’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation – he may have even saved his sport,” as the Jamaican crossed the line one hundredth of a second ahead of Gatlin.
The American’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, told the Guardian that they would not be speaking to any British outlets due to their coverage:
Justin, as well as I, feel that the British media and journalists have been extremely unkind to him. There’s been nothing positive said about him now for some time. Every characterisation is solely about doping and vilifying him.
So, to maintain his own dignity and self respect, he feels it best not to speak to them. It’s very unfortunate, but he’s been hurt tremendously by these attacks. And as human beings, we should be better than that. The BBC in particular should report without lacing their comments and reporting with biased views.
According to Gibson’s piece, other BBC commentators, including former Olympic medalist Brendan Foster, were pictured celebrating Bolt’s victory. Gatlin also apparently rejected three separate attempts by BBC journalists to interview him.
They also posted the following on Twitter in the wake of the Jamaican’s narrow win:
Gatlin has been in sensational form since returning from his second doping ban in 2010. Before losing to Bolt on Sunday, he was unbeaten in 28 100-metre races, making him the big favourite for glory in the blue riband event in Beijing. But the Jamaican, as he so often does, came to the fore on the biggest stage.
There are some who would sympathise with Gatlin. After all, as Gibson notes, there were three other men in the final—Tyson Gay, Mike Rodgers and Asafa Powell—who had also served doping bans, yet they received but a smidgen of the criticism attributed to the silver medalist. In addition, he’s served his time on both occasions and has been permitted to compete by the sport’s governing body.
Martyn Ziegler of the Press Association thinks that some of the BBC’s coverage was a little over the top:
Gatlin has tested positive for banned substances twice, so up against someone who has done so much for the sport of athletics, there was only going to be one person winning the popularity stakes.
BBC Sport’s Chief sports writer Tom Fordyce eloquently summed up his opinions on the difference between the two sprinters both on and off of the track:
To say Bolt has saved the sport with this win may have been a little sensationalist, as was the “good and evil” tagline which accompanied this 100-metre duel, per Gibson. But for many, this outcome was a cathartic one, and while various outlets do pride themselves on their impartiality, one of sport’s greatest positives is its ability to draw out raw emotions.
Gatlin may feel he’s been victimised, and given he’s running fast and running clean at this stage in his career, he deserves a little more credit. But sports fans—whether it be those in the stands, watching at home or in the commentary box—hold their heroes to high standards.