RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - American Justin Gatlin felt the full force of the crowd’s ire on Sunday and scowled back in response before finishing second to Usain Bolt in the Olympic 100 meters final and miss out on becoming the oldest man to win the event.
The 34-year-old Gatlin, who has served two career doping suspensions, played the sullen yin to Jamaican superstar Bolt’s exuberant yang, glowering both times he was introduced to boos as he entered the Olympic stadium.
“At the end of the day you hear everything, but you have to tune that kind of stuff out,” Gatlin told reporters.
“Back in the warm-up area, we all have respect for each other. So I would just like to see everyone have the respect in the audience as well.”
By contrast, 29-year-old Jamaican Bolt smiled and waved to a crowd that eagerly complied with his gestures requesting cheers or, just before the starter’s gun, silence.
Bolt said he was surprised to hear Gatlin booed.
“It is the first time I have come into a stadium and they booed someone,” Bolt said. “It was shocking ... I guess some people are more vocal than others.”
After winning his semi-final, when he had also been booed, Gatlin let his momentum carry him straight through the tunnel leading to the athletes’ private area under the grandstand.
After taking silver in the final with a 9.89 second performance to Bolt’s 9.81, he strode around the track with an American flag draped over his shoulders, smiling to the occasional friendly faces he found in the crowd.
A resident of Orlando, Florida, Gatlin served a one-year doping suspension after testing positive in 2001 for amphetamines contained in a medication he had taken for attention deficit disorder.
He later served four years after testing positive for artificially high levels of testosterone in 2006, returning to competition in 2010.
He claimed the second failure had been brought about by a masseur rubbing testosterone cream into his legs without his knowledge.
“That whole issue was over a decade ago,” Gatlin said. “I’ve been back in track and field for over six years.”
Athletes have been unusually vocal about doping during the Rio Games and American swimmer Lily King, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke and the 4x100m medley, said she thought Gatlin should not have been included on the U.S. team.
“Do I think people who have been caught for doping offences should be on the team? No, they shouldn’t,” King said last week.
Gatlin was asked about the comments on Saturday, replying: “I don’t even know who Lilly King is.”
With Sunday’s silver Gatlin now has five Olympic medals, including a gold in the 100m from the 2004 Athens Games and a bronze in the event from London in 2012.
He was part of the team stripped of the silver for the 4 x 100m relay in London after Tyson Gay admitted to doping but will have a chance to make up for that in the event this year.
Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs and Gene Emery, editing by Mitch Phillips and Patrick Johnston
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