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 100metres final to miss his shot at becoming the oldest man to win the event at age 34.
Gatlin, who 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.
By contrast, the 29-year-old Jamaican smiled and waved to a crowd that eagerly complied with his gestures requesting cheers or, just before the starter’s gun, silence.
Gatlin did not immediately address the booing with reporters, but said he would relish the silver medal.
“We work 365 days a year to be here for nine seconds,” he said. “At the age of 34, to race these young guys and still make the podium feels so good.”
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.”
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.
Athletes have been unusually vocal about doping during the Rio Games and fellow American Lily King, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke and the 4x100m medley, said in response to a question that she believed Gatlin should not have been included on the 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.