Usain Bolt has praised American sprinter Justin Gatlin as “one of the best” in the sport.
Gatlin produced a huge upset in the IAAF World Championships on Saturday night when he beat Bolt in the 100-metre final.
Gatlin has been banned twice for testing positive for illegal substances. The first was for two years in 2001, while the second was for four years in 2006. On both occasions, he had his ban reduced.
He was ferociously booed by the London Stadium crowd both before the 100-metre final, after his victory, and during the medal ceremony on Sunday.
Bolt, though, “always respected him as a competitor.”
Speaking to journalists, Bolt said: “[Gatlin] is one of the best I have faced. He deserves to be here, he’s done his time, and he’s worked hard to get back to being one of the best athletes.
“He’s run fast times, he’s back and he’s doing great. I look at him like any other athlete, as a competitor.”
Gatlin reciprocated Bolt’s praise. “Usain is a great athlete, a great man. He leaves a huge void with his character and athleticism. I respect him utmost. Every time we come across the finish line I shake his hand, I gave him a hug and tell him congratulations,” he said.
On being track and field’s pantomime villain, Gatlin professed innocence. He said:
“What do I do that makes me the bad boy? Do I talk bad to anybody, do I give bad gestures? I don’t. I congratulate every athlete, shake their hand. That doesn’t sound like a trait of a bad boy to me.
“It sounds like the media wants to sensationalise and make me the bad boy because Usain’s a hero. I’ve served my time.”
Bolt takes to the track for the final time in his career on Saturday evening as the Jamaican races in the 4 x 100-metre relay final.
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