US sprinting great Justin Gatlin announced his retirement from athletics on Thursday, hanging up his spikes after a career tinged by doping controversies that included an Olympic gold medal and multiple world titles.
The 40-year-old veteran, who won gold in the 100m at the 2004 Athens Olympics, confirmed his retirement in a post on Instagram titled “Dear Track.”
“I have loved you track. You gave me tears of sadness and of joy, lessons learned that will never be forgotten,” Gatlin wrote.
“The torch is passed but the love will never fade. On your mark, get set … Gone!”
Gatlin’s retirement had long been expected. He had attempted to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics last year but suffered a hamstring injury at the US trials in Eugene.
He completed a 100m and 200m sprint double at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005, and also won 100m gold at the 2017 Worlds in London, scoring a rare victory over Jamaican icon Usain Bolt in the process.
He was also part of the USA’s gold-medal winning 4x100m relay team at the Doha World Championships in 2019.
But Gatlin’s career was also touched by scandal, and he was twice suspended for doping offenses.
His first doping suspension in 2001 arose from the use of Adderall, which contains amphetamine. Gatlin had been using the drug since childhood to treat attention deficit disorder.
The US arbitration panel that heard his case ruled Gatlin was “certainly not a doper.”
A second positive test in 2006 found excessive levels of testosterone in his system.
Gatlin blamed the results on sabotage by a therapist with whom he was locked in a financial dispute.
Gatlin was banned for eight years for that offense, later reduced to four years on appeal.
Those controversies followed him throughout the remainder of his career, with athletics fans rarely passing up an opportunity to remind him of his chequered history.
Gatlin’s battle with Bolt at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing was framed in some quarters as a contest for the soul of track and field.
In the event, Bolt prevailed to general relief across the sport.
After his victory at the London World Championships, the medal ceremony produced astonishing scenes with the American being booed by fans while chanting the name of beaten rival Bolt.
“It did hurt because I’m not there for myself,” Gatlin said later.
“I’m up there for my country. I’m up there for my supporters. I didn’t do it for myself. Especially at the starting line, I wasn’t there for me.”
Even World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe could not hide his distaste for Gatlin’s victory in London, noting dryly that he was “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 however insisted he had paid his dues and deserved his chance at redemption.
“I apologise for any wrongdoings I’ve brought onto the sport,” he said in 2017. “I love the sport…I have worked hard to right my wrongs.”