Justin Gatlin leant forward on the railing, dripping sweat and sucking in lungfuls of humid air. Gatlin had just won the inaugural Diamond League meeting of the 2012 season, in Doha. He ran 9.87sec, his fastest time since he won the Olympic title in 9.85sec in 2004.
At least, it was his fastest time since that still stood in the record books, several others having been struck out when he was banned after testing positive for testosterone in 2007.
The run was not his first since he returned,but it was his quickest. Gatlin was back.
“How does it feel to be Justin?” he was asked. “Have the fans made you feel welcome?” Gatlin switched on his goofy smile. Sure they had. And if some of them saw him as a villain, he did not much mind.
He insists that the failed test was caused by a malicious masseur who secretly rubbed testosterone cream into his knee. “Track and field,” he said in his Brooklyn drawl, “is a soap opera with spikes on.”