By Ron Bellamy
Saturday, Jun 25, 2011
Walter Dix wasn’t quite the last man standing, but after the battle of attrition that was the men’s 100 meters, he was the one on the top level of the awards stand Friday evening in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.
By the time Dix surged from behind to outlean Justin Gatlin, winning in a photo finish, 9.94 seconds to Gatlin’s 9.95 seconds, American record-holder Tyson Gay had pulled out of the event with a lingering hip injury that will scuttle a much-anticipated showdown with world record-holder Usain Bolt in the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea, in August.
Then Travis Padgett made the final but didn’t run, and Ivory Williams, who has been running well, false-started, was disqualified and ran the race under protest.
Third-place on the World Championships team went to Mike Rodgers, the 2009 national champion, who was clocked in 9.99.
So much drama: Gay out, his season in doubt; Gatlin back in the World Championships after a four-year doping ban that was not simply his ordeal, but was a nightmare, as well, for Eugene massage therapist Chris Whetstine.
Whetstine was accused by Gatlin of causing the positive test by rubbing a cream containing testosterone on his legs, a charge that Whetstine has steadfastly denied even as Gatlin has stuck to his story.
Almost lost in all that was the second straight national 100-meter title for Dix, the 25-year-old former Florida State sprinter who starred here in the Olympic Trials three years ago, when he won the 200, was second in the 100 and then earned bronze medals in both events in the Olympic Games.
Friday, Dix set his sights on “a gold-medal performance” in the World Championships, where Bolt and the Jamaicans will be formidable.
“Jamaicans, they’re fast,” Dix said.
“They’re just about as good as us. So it will be like competing against us, just more of us. It’s not going to be anything different than what happened at this meet, and I’m just going to get ready to run faster at Daegu.”
But going into that meet without Gay is “a big blow,” Dix said.
“Tyson at his best is definitely one of the top runners in the world, probably ever. For us to not have him means we’re going to have to step up.”
Gay was scratched about 30 minutes before the semis earlier Friday afternoon.
“He was unable to warm up due to a hip and adductor problem on his right side,” said his agent, Mark Wetmore, in a statement released by USA Track & Field.
Gay is entered in the 200, in which qualifying begins today, but won’t run.
Gatlin, meanwhile, continued his against-the-odds comeback to reach his first World Championships since 2005, when he swept the 100 and 200.
His doping ban ran from 2006 through last summer, and after he crossed the finish line he dropped to the track, overcome with emotion.
“For the last four years, I’ve had so much pent-up frustration and sadness and so much emotion, anger,” Gatlin said. “Two meters before the finish line, I let it all out with a roar. I thought I won. But it feels good just to be on the team. ...
“After I crossed the finish line, I just cried. I just let it all out.”
Dix said he wasn’t surprised by Gatlin’s performance — “he’s always had that kind of talent, even before the accusations” — and said he has “no issues” with Gatlin being back.
“I don’t have a problem with him competing, I don’t have a problem competing against him,” Dix said. “Let the best line up, whether they’re clean or not. ...
“I don’t know Justin Gatlin’s story specifically, if he did or if he didn’t,” Dix added. “There are people still in this sport doping today and they’re not getting caught. Regardless of the facts, you’re going to have to compete against them and be at your best.”