Athletics: Drug cheats lucky to return

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Call me overly-critical, unforgiving, or even brutally unfair, but you will never alter my beliefs of how we should treat an athlete who has been banned from their sport for doping.

It’s a topic that has been at the forefront of sports news coverage over the summer, beginning with the headline data released by the BBC in their ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Panorama programme in June, then later intensified by the Sunday Times' claims that multiple former London Marathon winners are subjects of serious doping speculation in early August, before finally coming to the fore with the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.

It was these Championships, and specifically with one American sprinter by the name of Justin Gatlin who provided me with the brainstorm for this piece.


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Now, Gatlin has been banned twice for ‘doping’ and I believe it is only fair to make it clear at this stage that his first ban from the sport was granted as Gatlin tested positive for a medicinal amphetamine, as he described to The Guardian in June, 2015, that he had taken since he was a youth.

However, his ban was cut in half to just a year and Gatlin later returned to the sport and achieved enormous success before he was banned once more after testing positive in 2006, this time for the steroid, testosterone. Now how is it right that he is allowed to return just four years later?

More so, the former world-record holder was able to keep his Olympic and World Gold medals from Athens and Helsinki respectively, surely implicating that this success had no relation to the positive test (just me being critical)?

He's not alone 

I must now indicate that although the focus has been drawn to Gatlin, he is not alone in returning to the sport after being a proven drug cheat.

The easiest way to gain an understanding of the true extent of the challenge that Lord Coe faces in his new role as IAAF President is to simply analyse those who have been banned from the sport after positive test results, reading through athletes with the initial ‘A’ is a task that will lead the minutes to tick away, let alone the entire list.

I must, however, point out that the list I am referring to cannot be found on the WADA’s (World Anti-Doping Association’s) own website, a topic that in itself I am highly sceptical of. Why should the association not look to ‘name and shame’ these individuals? But that’s an argument for a later date…

There is no more likely individual in athletics to regain credibility for his sport, and for those athletes who have been competing clean and dragging themselves through hell to even challenge the cheats they have found themselves toe-to-toe with then Lord Coe.

But even for the man who is credited with bringing the Olympics to London for the third time ever, this hurdle could simply be one too many. I hope I’m wrong.

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