Anniversary Games: Usain Bolt backs Mo Farah after drugs row
Out-of-form Jamaican promises fireworks at the Olympic Stadium ahead of the World Championships in Beijing
Usain Bolt has promised to "put on a show" for his fans when he competes in the Anniversary Games at London's Olympic Stadium tonight. The six-time Olympic champion has been a shadow of his usual sensational self this year, with a by his standards laborious season's best of 10.12 seconds.
But time is running out for the Jamaican to prove his fitness ahead of next month's World Championships in Beijing, so there is a lot riding on his appearance in London.
Bolt will be running in the 100m tonight, the event he's dominated for most of the last decade, but this season American Justin Gatlin has been the man in form, regularly running sub ten seconds with a time of 9.74 secs his season's best. Bolt's world record for the distance of 9.58 – set in Berlin in 2009 – has never been under such threat and some commentators believe Gatlin could break the mark in China.
Gatlin, however, will not be in Stratford. He is a controversial figure in track and field and the organisers of the Anniversary Games declined to extend an invitation to the American because he's twice failed drugs tests in the past.
"I know Gatlin's been doing good this season, but I'm not worried," said Bolt, when asked about his rival. "When the world championships comes anyone who knows anything about me knows I always show up. I'm just looking forward to going to Beijing. As long as I'm in great shape there will be no worries."
Pressed on how he would react if he lost to Gatlin in China, Bolt replied: "I'm not planning to lose so I can't really answer that."
As for how he regarded Gatlin's past, Bolt largely skirted the question, though he did criticise another American sprinter, Tyson Gay, who's also been banned for doping offences in the past.
"Gatlin was before my time," explained Bolt. "I'm not saying it's right what he did. It happened when I was first coming up through the sport."
But he then turned his fire on his contemporary, Gay. "Because Tyson and I competed so closely and I respected him it made me work hard and dedicate myself. So when you hear that someone is cheating it really hurts as an athlete to know that the person you really look up to is banned for drugs. It really bothers me... [so] the only person I have a problem with is Tyson."
One person he does not have any issues with is Mo Farah, despite the controversy surrounding the British runner. Farah has been indirectly drawn into a drugs controversy of his own recently because of his coach, Alberto Salazar, who has been at the centre of doping allegations.
But Bolt backed is good friend, who runs tonight in the 3,000m. Bolt said he had sent a message of support to Farah through their shared agent, Ricky Simms.
"Everything's OK," said Bolt. "He's just trying to focus on the championships and training hard. When you have confidence in your coach over the years and you know who he is as a person, of course you're going to want to support him as an athlete. If he believes in his coach, I believe in him."
British Athletics bosses select the team for the World Championships on Monday so this the last chance for athletes to impress and among those looking to put in a good performance in the Olympic Stadium will be heptathlete champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, who's been largely absent in recent seasons because of injury and pregnancy, but will be hoping to recreate her heroics of 2012.
Greg Rutherford, the Olympic long jump champion from the 2012 Games, will also be in action.