Justin Gatlin's agent said the sprinter will not speak to British journalists in order to maintain his own ‘dignity and respect’. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Seconds out, round two. After Usain Bolt sent the hyperbole meter into overdrive by defeating Justin Gatlin, the USA athlete at the eye of the storm has berated the British media in general, and the BBC in particular, for styling the showdown as a battle of good and evil.
The pair will take to the track again on Tuesday in the 200m heats and are expected to meet again in the final on Thursday, when their opponents may well include the rapidly improving 20-year-old British sprinter Zharnel Hughes.
The unrepentant Gatlin, who may as well have the prefix twice-banned attached to his name given his apparent never-apologise, never-explain stance, will refuse to speak to the BBC for the foreseeable future after taking exception to its coverage of his 100m.
“He’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation – he may have even saved his sport,” enthused the BBC commentator Steve Cram as the Jamaican crossed the line in 9.79sec, fractionally ahead of the seemingly unassailable Gatlin.
Footage posted on Twitter showed Brendan Foster and other BBC commentators celebrating as Bolt crossed the line and Gatlin is understood to have shunned the broadcaster three times after the race.
Gatlin, who believes that the term twice-banned doper is unfair as his first suspension was for medication he had been taking for a decade, feels unfairly vilified by some of the coverage around Bolt’s reluctant mission to “save athletics”.
“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,” his agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, told the Guardian.
“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.”
The decision is the surest sign that Gatlin, who missed perhaps his best chance to beat Bolt to a major championship medal on Sunday, is not prepared to cave in and repent any time soon. His second ban, initially for eight years later halved to four, was blamed on testosterone he claimed was rubbed into his buttocks by a masseur with a grudge.
Since coming back to the track in 2010 and then winning bronze at the London 2012 Games (where he was booed by the crowd) the 2004 Olympic champion has gone faster and faster.
Until his defeat by Bolt in the 100m final Gatlin, right, had gone 29 races unbeaten. He was asked three times about his doping past on Sunday night and each time answered: “I am thankful.”
When he was then asked whether he thought the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, would be relieved that Bolt had won, he again replied: “I am thankful.” His questioner walked out in disgust.
Gatlin, 33, may feel there is nothing more to be said on the subject and also that he is being unfairly singled out given there were three others in the final who had also served doping bans (the Americans, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers, along with Bolt’s Jamaican team-mate, Asafa Powell).
Bolt and Gatlin will probably meet for only the second time over 200m in the final on Thursday. While Gatlin did the double a decade ago in Helsinki, after his first ban, since Bolt burst into the Bird’s Nest in 2008 he has dominated.
Bolt’s recent travails with his start are less of an issue over the longer distance and with the confidence boost of overcoming a poor season, troubled by injury and off form, in such spectacular fashion most expect Bolt to secure a remarkable 16th gold medal at world level and his fourth consecutive world 200m title.
“I’m looking forward to it as it’s my favourite event and something I want more than the 100m,” said a still beaming Bolt following his 100m victory. Gatlin said he would be fully focused on revenge: “They’re two different beasts. I’ve got to get my hat on and focus on that.”
Gatlin will take heart from four straight sub 20-second races this season at the distance while Bolt’s fastest is 20.13sec. In addition to Gatlin, there are only two other entrants who have run faster than 20sec this year: the American Isiah Young and Panama’s Alonso Edward.
Hughes, the Anguilla-born British sprinter who clocked an impressive 20.05 at the Anniversary Games in London last month, is a member of Bolt’s training group and said working with the world record holder was “a lot of fun”.
Aiming to become the first British man to win a sprint medal at a world championships for 12 years, Hughes has seen at first hand the punishing sessions that led Bolt to declare last week that the older he got, the harder he worked.
“When you see somebody like that and you see he’s the world’s fastest man, it makes me as a youngster, who is still coming up, work even harder,” he said. “Training with Bolt is a great experience. I just like training with him because the way he trains, it makes me want to train even harder.”
Coming up through a similar route as Bolt, competing at the Jamaican School Champs for Kingston College, Hughes has been compared to his sometime training partner at a similar age.
“Being compared to the world’s fastest man is great. But at the same time you want to make your own name for yourself,” he said.
Having joined the British team this year, the rapidly-improving Hughes said it was up to younger sprinters to start removing the stain from this tarnished sporting spectacle.
“If we can keep it as clean as possible and ensure that we, as youngsters, can come up and do great things, I think it will be better for the sport.”