Justin Gatlin should have been banned for life after he was convicted of being a drugs cheat, Lord Coe declared on Sunday after watching the American ruin Usain Bolt’s farewell 100 metres.
Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, blamed the World Anti-Doping Agency and legal systems worldwide for Gatlin being able to return to the sport after two doping violations.
The World Championships were still reeling on Sunday from Bolt’s shock defeat in his final individual race to pantomime villain Gatlin, with Coe admitting it was “not the perfect script” following the jeers which greeted Saturday’s result at the London Stadium.
Denying it was “the worst result ever” for a sport beset by doping scandals, Coe nevertheless told the BBC’s Sportsweek programme: “I’m not eulogistic at the thought of somebody who has served two bans in our sport walking off with one of the biggest prizes our sport has to offer.”
Gatlin’s first drugs ban in 2001 was halved from two years following an appeal that a positive test had been due to medication he had been taking since childhood, when he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.
His second ban, after testing positive for testosterone in 2006, was originally eight years but was halved again on appeal because of the circumstances of the first case.
“There have been two bans in the past,” Coe said. “One got watered down, which made it very difficult for the second ban.
“The second ban, we went for an eight-year ban, which would have, in essence, been a life ban. We lost that.”
Coe blamed Wada for failing until 2015 to make first-time doping offences carry a suspension of up to four years, something he indicated would have made it easier to ban Gatlin for longer second time around.
A crusader for the ultimate punishment for drugs cheats, Coe added he would be willing to push for it again in the wake of Gatlin’s win.
“I’m never going to set my face [against] or close the door on the thought that we could end up one day with a lifetime ban,” he added.
A recent study on the long-term effects of testosterone found mice still benefited from being given it years later, raising fears the same applied to Gatlin, whose third coming saw him run faster than ever.
Coe urged national federations last year to be brave enough to stop picking former drugs cheats for the Olympics and other major events.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, also called for life bans for dopers following Bolt’s defeat, something that would also have affected compatriots Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell.
“It’s the only way you’re going to fully ensure that people don’t cheat in sport,” he said.
Gatlin was expected to be booed again at Sunday’s 100m medal ceremony, at which Bolt will also receive a bronze medal.
Declaring the IAAF was “not the thought police”, Coe nevertheless added: “I don’t think Usain will want a situation where an athlete at the moment is demonised.”
Coe was confident Bolt’s legacy had already been assured before last night’s defeat.
“I’m sorry that Usain, by his own standards – and I think he was very open about it in his post-race interviews – felt that he’d had a very bad start and was just not in vintage form,” he said.
“For him, personally, I think it was minor tweak in what he has achieved on and off the track for us.”
Holness admitted Saturday’s race was not the ending Jamaica wanted, saying: “Usain Bolt is such a great sportsman, his achievements are probably superhuman. But, at the end of the day, we’re all human beings and sometimes these things do happen.
“We in Jamaica view Usain Bolt as our hero. He is a legend. So I think his achievements are still intact.
“We see him as a great sportsman. The Jamaican people still love him and, I believe, the world still loves Usain Bolt.
“What I’m particularly proud of is he did the work, he stuck with the sport, he worked very hard, he followed the advice of his coach, but, more than that, he kept clean.
“I don’t think there is anyone who will achieve what he has done in our lifetime or lifetimes to come.”