Justin Gatlin was born on February 10, 1982, and raised in Pensacola, Florida. Displaying exceptional athletic skills in high school and college, he won several titles and turned pro in 2000 with a lucrative endorsement contract from Nike. In 2006, he set the world record for the 100-meter sprint, but tested positive for a banned substance only a few months later. After a four-year suspension, he returned to international track and field to compete in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze and silver medal in the 100m, respectively.
Justin Gatlin was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 10, 1982, and grew up in Pensacola, Florida. At Woodham High School, he was the fastest kid on the team, running the high hurdles and helping the team win the state championship. Seeing his potential, coaches from the University of Tennessee offered him a scholarship as a sprinter. It was 2000, and Justin never looked back.
While at Tennessee, Gatlin won six consecutive NCAA sprint titles and led the "Volunteers" to two NCAA titles. In 2001, he tested positive for amphetamines and was initially banned from international competition for two years. He appealed on the grounds that the test found medication he had been taking since childhood, for treating attention deficit disorder. In the fall of 2002, the IAAF lifted the ban. At age 19, Gatlin turned pro. Shoe manufacturer Nike awarded him one of the largest endorsement contracts in professional track and field.
Olympian and World Champion
At the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Gatlin won a gold medal in the 100-meter sprint, narrowly beating Francis Obikwelu of Portugal and defending champion Maurice Greene. His 9.85 finish was the third fastest in Olympic history. He also received a silver medal in the 4-by-100 relay and a bronze in the 200-meter race. Gatlin extended his dominance at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, capturing gold in the 100-meter race with a 9.88 second finish.
On May 12, 2006, Justin Gatlin set a world record of 9.77 seconds in the 100-meter sprint during qualifying rounds of the IAAF Super Tour in Doha, Qatar. He later won the final, clocking in at 9.88 seconds.
In July 2006, Gatlin was suspended from international competition after testing positive for testosterone. He denied using any performance-enhancing drugs, but agreed to an eight-year ban from track and field to avoid a lifetime ban in exchange for his cooperation with authorities. As a result, his 2006 world record was annulled. In December 2007, the ban was reduced to four years.
Over the next four years, Justin Gatlin served out his sentence, looking for other avenues to exercise his exceptional athletic talent. He worked out with the NFL Houston Texans and attended rookie camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though his running drill numbers were impressive, he did not sign with any team. During his hiatus, he got off his training regimen and, due to admitted laziness, swelled his 6-foot frame to more than 200 pounds from a training weight of 182.
Return to Track and Field
In August 2010, Gatlin made his return to the track and field circuit with a tour of Estonia and Finland, winning in the 100-meter races. Due to not being in full physical condition, his start times were poor, but his finishes were strong. Between 2010 and 2012, Gatlin made slow but steady progress, improving his 100-meter times with every event. Commenting on his suspension, he said, "I didn't have time to really grow up ... be a young man who pays bills and takes care of everyday life. Life is hard. This gave me an opportunity to understand life as a whole."
In June 2012, 30-year-old Gatlin qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics with a 100-meter victory at the U.S. Olympic Trials; he ran the trials 100 in 9.80 seconds, beating his top American challenger, Tyson Gay. Gatlin missed the emergence of Jamaican sprinter sensation Usain Bolt at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Much has been made of this potential rivalry, and both runners have upped the hype by exchanging comments. But at the London 2012 Olympics, it was Bolt who got the last word. Crossing the finish line at 9.63 seconds, he beat Gatlin who won the bronze medal, achieving his personal best of 9.79. The silver went to Yohan Blake, who clocked in at his personal best at 9.75.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Gatlin notched a medal up by winning the silver in the 100m at 9.89 seconds. His 2012 challenger, Usain Bolt, again proved to be the top sprinter, winning the gold at 9.81. During the 200-meter semifinals, Gatlin came in third place, failing to win a spot in the final.
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