Justin Gatlin defends himself against Olympic criticism: 'The time has been served'

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As we inch closer to track and field competition at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Justin Gatlin has come under fire following recent remarks by Team USA swimmer Lilly King about the inclusion of athletes who have violated the anti-doping policy, and now the American sprinter is responding.

Following the women’s 100-meter breaststroke semifinals on Sunday, King called out Russian rival Yulia Efimova for “drug cheating.” Efimova had previously served a 16-month suspension for doping. The following night, when King defeated Efimova in the gold-medal race, the 19-year-old doubled down, calling out all athletes who have taken banned substances in their past, including Gatlin.

“I have to respect (the track authorities’) decision even if it is something I don’t necessarily agree with,” King said. “No, do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team? They shouldn’t. It is unfortunate we have to see that.

“It is just something that needs to be set in stone that this is what we are going to do. Let’s settle this and be done with it. There should not be any bouncing back and forwards.”

Even Justin Gatlin's eyes are on Justin Gatlin at the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Getty Images)
Even Justin Gatlin’s eyes are on Justin Gatlin at the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Getty Images)

Gatlin was twice suspended for doping, in 2001 and 2006, although the earlier ban for amphetamines was lifted on an appeal over medicine he was taking for diagnosed attention deficit disorder. He later served a four-year suspension after testing positive for excessive testosterone levels in 2006. Now 34 years old, Gatlin is the oldest American sprinter to qualify for the Olympics since 1912.

“At the end of the day, the time has been served,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve served that time. I’ve dealt with that punishment. I’ve moved forward.”

He added, “I’ve worked hard, all the way from the bottom when I had nothing. I worked hard to work back to where I’m at now. I don’t understand. The system has worked. I think people need to stop looking at trying to be the judge, the jury and executioner and let the system do its job.”

Aside from King, Gatlin has received a warm welcome from other U.S. Olympic teammates in the athletes’ village, he told the AP. Count American golfer Bubba Watson among those defending Gatlin.

“Who cares about the past?” Watson told Time. “I mean, we’ve all had issues. People write negative things about me that aren’t true. … What he did, true or not, I don’t care about that. He’s changed.”

Gatlin’s much-anticipated 100-meter dash meeting with two-time defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica is scheduled for Saturday, followed by the 200 on Tuesday and 4×100 relay on Aug. 18. Gatlin captured gold in the 100 at the 2004 Athens Olympics and bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.

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