Childhood & Early Life
He was born on February 10, 1982, in Brooklyn, United States, to Willie Gatlin and Jeanette Gatlin.
He was raised in Pensacola, Florida, where he attended the ‘Woodham High School’. In school he remained the fastest runner of the team. He used to run high hurdles and helped the team in winning state championship.
He was soon spotted by coaches, Vince Anderson and Bill Webb from ‘University of Tennessee’, who offered Gatlin a scholarship as a sprinter. Thus he joined the ‘University of Tennessee’, Knoxville, as a good 110m hurdler in the fall of 2000.
He turned pro in 2000 and received a huge endorsement contract in professional track and field from Nike, Inc.
For the next couple of years he received his training and also finished the program of the university under Vince Anderson. He went on to win six ‘National Collegiate Athletic Association’ (‘NCAA’) sprint titles consecutively and also led the ‘Volunteers’ to win 2 ‘NCAA’ titles.
In 2001 he was banned from international competition for two years after testing positive for the central nervous system stimulant drug amphetamines. He made an appeal on the ground that he had been taking it as a medication since childhood to treat attention deficit disorder. His ban was lifted by ‘IAAF’ in the fall of 2002.
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He beat Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu and defending champion Maurice Greene in 100m sprint with a time of 9.85s, the third fastest time taken in the history of Olympics, at the 2004 Summer Olympics to win the gold medal. He was also a winner of a bronze medal and a silver medal in a USA sweep of 200m race and as a 4 × 100 m relay squad member respectively.
On August 7, 2005, he succeeded to win a gold medal in 100m sprint beating 2003 champion Kim Collins in the 2005 ‘IAAF World Championships in Athletics’ held at Helsinki, Finland taking a time of 9.88 seconds.
In absence of Asafa Powell, the then world record holder sprinter from Jamaica, Gatlin won the Olympic-World Championship double after beating his competitors with the widest margin ever by any sprinter in a World Championship 100m for men.
That year he also triumphed in 200m and with that became the second such sprinter in athletics history after Maurice Greene to win both 100m and 200m sprints in a single World Championship.
He equalled the world record of 9.77s made by Powell in 100m (in 2005) in the final of the IAAF Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix in Doha, Qatar, that was held on May 12, 2006. Although originally it was reported that Gatlin had surpassed the record with his time of 9.76 seconds +1.7 m/s wind, it was later revealed by IAAF on May 16 of the year that the time was 9.766 seconds, which comes to 9.77 seconds after rounding off according to rules.
After a while Gatlin and Powell appeared at Prefontaine Classic in Oregon, on call of the track and field community for a showdown of the two, but they were unable to come to an agreement with the meet organizers. Thus the two athletes competed in separate heats where Gatlin emerged winner of the event by taking a time of 9.88 seconds compared to 9.93 seconds of Powell.
He again tested positive for a banned substance, this time probably with testosterone or its precursor, following a relay race on April 22, 2006 in Lawrence, Kansas.
An eight year ban was imposed on him from track and field on August 22, 2006. As he already had a record of such doping incident and subsequent ban from the game, he cooperated with doping authorities to avoid lifetime ban and accepted the suspension. Later following his appeal, the ban was reduced to four years by an arbitration panel in December 2007. However his record of 9.77s that he equalled with that of Powell in May 2006 was removed.
During the four year ban he planned to utilise his athletic talent in other avenues like football. ESPN reported on November 29, 2006, that he had worked out with NFL Houstan Texans.
ESPN also reported on December 19, 2006, that he will be working as a voluntary coach of the track team of his old school, the ‘Woodham High School’.
The ‘Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ declared on May 4, 2007, that their 2007 rookie camp has taken him as one of the twenty-eight free agents on a tryout contract basis. However Gatlin did not sign with any team.
His training regimen gradually suffered, which resulted him to put on an additional weight crossing well over 200 pounds from his earlier training weight of 182 pounds.
He made a comeback in athletics on August 3, 2010, and toured Estonia and Finland. Due to his absence from the track for a few years initially he struggled with his start times, though his finish times were stronger. He gradually made a slow but steady progress with every event he performed.
Within a couple of years on June 24, 2012, he ran a time of 9.80s winning 100m final of the US Olympic Trials. This was the fastest time achieved ever by a male athlete above thirty years of age. His performance in 100 m final of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, held on August 5, saw him run a time of 9.79s, fetching a bronze medal.
On July 18, 2014, he ran a time of 19.68s in the 200 meters held at the ‘IAAF Diamond League’ event in Monaco.
During the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix, he bettered his personal best to 9.74 (+0.9 m/s) on May 15, 2015. With this he achieved the standing of the fifth best performer of all time in 100m.