Justin Gatlin was on top of the world after winning the 100 meters at the 2004 Olympic Games.
But he lost the fastest man in the world title and all the marketing that goes with it to Usain Bolt four years later, as Gatlin was in the midst of sitting out a four-year ban from the sport as a result of testing positive for testosterone.
Gatlin said his positive result came from a cream rubbed in by his rogue masseur, but the big money decided to disassociate from the sprinter. Nike suspended his contract and never used him again, as Gatlin became the first athlete Nike ever cut off. A few years later, the company severed ties with Mike Vick, only to sign him to a deal after he was released from prison and was playing for the Eagles.
On Sunday, Gatlin ran a personal best 9.8 seconds at the Olympic Trials, to qualify for the games and take his shot in London against Bolt, who set the world record in the 100 meters at 9.58 seconds in Berlin in 2009.
But if Gatlin’s improbable comeback reaches the pinnacle and he takes home Olympic gold at the age of 30, will companies embrace him?
Gatlin’s marketing agent Carlos Scott of N-Vision Marketing has faith.
“We’ve talked to companies and they love him overseas where the sport is bigger than it is here,” Scott said.
As of now, Gatlin has two deals. One with active watchbrand, Deuce and the other with Chinese company Xtep, whose apparel he wore during the trials this week. While Gatlin waited for a mold from the company, he wore both adidas and Nike on his feet.
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