BEIJING (Reuters) - Justin Gatlin’s manager is “disappointed and perplexed” over the treatment of the American sprinter who claimed he was “kicked out” by organizers of the World Challenge meet in Beijing after telling them of an injury concern.
Renaldo Nehemiah told Reuters on Tuesday he would be seeking answers from the sport’s governing International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) about the events which saw Gatlin storm home on the eve of Wednesday’s meeting.
Sprint hurdling great Nehemiah believes Gatlin, a controversial figure after twice failing drug tests, paid the price for his honesty in telling organizers on his arrival in Beijing on Saturday of his injury worry.
Even though he later improved and felt fit to run, Nehemiah said Gatlin was told by organizers that he should go home.
By Tuesday night in Beijing there had still been no official response from the meeting’s officials about the circumstances surrounding Gatlin’s departure.
Nehemiah said he could only assume it was because they were unconvinced by Gatlin’s fitness after he cramped up following a flight from Doha, where he ran a lifetime best of 9.74 seconds in the 100 meters — the fastest in the world this year.
The sprinter’s manager said he felt the organizers may have been influenced by last year’s Beijing meeting when world 110m hurdles champion David Oliver pulled out late with injury.
Before flying home, Nehemiah said: “This morning I got an email asking when we were leaving and also stating that the organizing committee wasn’t paying for our hotel nor reimbursing us for our flights. The tone of it was very unsettling to me.
“I will have a conversation with the IAAF to get more understanding about this.”
Both Nehemiah and Gatlin were bemused, he said, because they assumed organizers would give the sprinter every chance to be fit for the race as its biggest attraction.
Gatlin’s picture adorns thousands of posters around Beijing to promote the meeting at the Bird’s Nest stadium in the year the world championships are being staged there.
“I’m disappointed and perplexed,” said Nehemiah. “I’ve never seen anything like this where an athlete gets hurt and all of a sudden, they’re kicked out.
“We believe in transparency. Justin’s been through a lot so I don’t need any more negativity surrounding him. That’s why I’d said to him, ‘Be a man of your word and let them know about your problem’.
“Maybe in hindsight, we shouldn’t have said a word.”
Would Gatlin ever return to China for an invitation meeting? “He hasn’t taken that position. He’s still trying to wrap his head around this,” said Nehemiah.
Editing by Douglas Beattie