15 July 2021, The Tablet

Going for gold

Going for gold

Man of faith:?Justin Gatlin
Photo: Alamy, Mariano Garcia


Heart and Soul: Doping, diving and God
BBC World Service

This absorbing documentary (10 July), nicely timed for the advent of the Tokyo Olympics, began with a clip of the American sprinter Justin Gatlin being interviewed in the aftermath of his defeat by Usain Bolt in the 2015 World Athletics Championships. Gatlin is a committed Christian who sinks to his knees in prayer after every victory. He is also notorious for having been suspended from the sport twice for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Pausing only to remind us of the ninth commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness”), presenter Robert Beckford hastened on to Doping, diving and God’s real scoop. This was a sit-down with the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, whose emphatic victory in the 100 metres at the 1988 Olympic Games was followed by a positive drugs test and the immediate removal of his medal. Like Gatlin, the Jamaican-born Johnson was a man of faith with a deeply devout mother who insisted on regular attendance at church.

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