American athlete Justin Gatlin will be in South Africa to run a 150m race. Photo: AP Photo
Disclaimer: Doping is wrong and should be condemned in the strongest terms. Now it’s time for me to hold a mirror in front of those that reacted with outrage at the news of Justin Gatlin coming to South Africa.

As a side note, outrage is no longer an extraordinary reaction; it seems to be the norm in the world of social media. A default button, if you will.

Back to Gatlin, who has the ability to expose closet-case anti-doping crusaders wherever he goes around the world.

The advocates that stand for clean sport find their voices the minute he steps onto the track.

It is often the same people that don’t bat an eyelid over the indiscretions of their own local heroes.

It was certainly the case at last year’s IAAF World Championships in London where the Brits booed Gatlin but turned a blind eye to doping suspicions surrounding Chris Froome and Paula Radcliffe.

I’ve observed the same self-righteous behaviour in South Africa despite the chequered past of some of our beloved sportsmen and women.

South African track and field athletics have had a number of high-profile doping cases where the offenders have not only been forgiven for their indiscretions, but occupy influential positions in the sport.

Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games 800m silver medallist Hezekiel Sepeng served a two-year ban in the mid-2000s after testing positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone.

Sepeng has served his time and instead of being banished into infamy, he landed a job at Athletics SA (ASA).

ASA even appointed Dr Ekkart Arbeit, a doping expert in former East Germany, in 2007 despite accusations that he oversaw steroids programmes.

A fun fact is that South Africa produced the youngest doping offender back in 1995 after 14-year-old Lisa de Villiers (not related to this writer) tested positive for nandrolone.

Another South African, 16-year-old Michael van Staden, was the youngest sportsman in the world to be sentenced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne for using the banned substance EPO in 2005.

Respected former Lions coach Johan Ackermann has become one of the darlings of South African rugby despite his own doping offence.

Ackermann copped a two-year ban from the game in 1997 after traces of nandrolone was found in his system.

There is nothing wrong with expressing one's disgust with athletes who opted for dubious ways to get ahead.

We should at least be consistent, though, and not only limit our outrage to dopers but any athlete that is guilty of overstepping societal norms and rules of fair play.

Some South Africans were only too happy to welcome Floyd Mayweather, a convicted domestic abuser, into the country back in 2015.

None other than former motor mouth Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula brought the controversial boxer to the country, seemingly ignoring his past indiscretions.

Gatlin was found guilty of one of the cardinal sins in track and field and served his time and can legally compete.

People have the right to boycott the upcoming Athletix Grand Prix Series because of Gatlin’s participation and kudos to them for remaining steadfast in their convictions.

Those that say paying to bring the reigning world 100m champion to South Africa sends out the wrong message to aspiring track and field athletes may have a point.

But while if may be impossible to divorce Gatlin from his doping past, his pedigree as one of the world’s greatest sprinters of all time is sure to inspire the South African youngsters who will come to watch him race here.

Gatlin ran a new personal best of 9.74 seconds, which is the fifth fastest time ever, after serving his doping ban.

That is one reason to go and watch in the Capital one of the fastest men the world has seen.

Saturday Star

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