9m UK viewers see Bolt lose to Gatlin; Coe 'won't close door' on lifetime bans for dopers
Nine million UK television viewers tuned in for the final of the men’s 100 metres final at the IAAF World Championships in London.
BBC One, the main channel of the UK’s public-service broadcaster, drew an impressive average audience of 6 million, a 35.4-per-cent viewing share, for its live coverage of the second evening of the championships, with the peak achieved at 9.45pm (BST) for the blue riband sprint event, which was won by USA’s Justin Gatlin.
Viewers were attracted by the prospect of seeing Usain Bolt win gold in his last major championships, but the Jamaican superstar could finish only third behind controversial star Gatlin, who has served two separate bans for doping offences.
Bolt’s final appearance in an individual event (he will also race in the 4x100 metres relay at the championships) also pulled in large audiences in other countries, notably France, where 4.3 million watched the final on France 2, the main channel of public-service broadcaster France Télévisions.
The channel drew an average of 2.9 million viewers, an 18.8-per-cent share, for the evening session.
In Germany, public-service broadcaster ARD attracted an average audience of 2.8 million, a 10.8-per-cent share, for Saturday night’s athletics events even though they were up against the DFL Supercup, the curtain-raiser to the German soccer season.
Gatlin’s victory was greeted with jeering from the crowd at the London Stadium, and this was repeated, albeit not to the same extent, at the medal ceremony on Sunday night, while prompting renewed calls for lifetime bans for doping offenders.
The IAAF denied that the ceremony was brought forward from 8pm to 6.50pm to minimise embarrassment, saying that it was always scheduled for the earlier time, and that the London 2017 organisers had published the wrong information on their website.
The medals were presented by IAAF president Sebastian Coe who had earlier admitted that the 35-year-old Gatlin’s victory was “not the perfect script.”
He stressed that the governing body had sought a longer second ban for the American, the Olympic 100 metres champion in 2004, only to encounter legal obstacles, and would press for lifetime bans for convicted dopers in the future.
Coe told BBC Radio Five live yesterday: "I'm not eulogistic that someone who has served two bans has walked off with one of our glittering prizes. But he is eligible to be here.
"It's not the perfect script. I thought Usain was very generous with the observations he made. That must have been a bitter event for him to swallow. He was bigger than the moment and it typifies his career."
Gatlin received a two-year ban in 2001 after testing positive for amphetamines found in prescribed medication he had been taking for attention deficit disorder, but this was later reduced to one year on appeal.
He subsequently tested positive for testosterone in 2006 and was banned for eight years, although this was reduced to four years by an arbitration panel in 2007.
Coe said: “There have been two bans in the past. One got watered down, which made it very difficult for the second ban. The second ban, we went for an eight-year ban, which would have, in essence, been a life ban. We lost that."
The IAAF president pointed out that efforts to impose lengthy suspensions on doping offenders have often been overturned by courts and other legal bodies, but agreed with the call from Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness for lifetime bans to deter the activity.
Coe said: “So would I [like to see lifetime bans] and so would the majority of our sport. I’m not going to close the door on lifetime bans, but we’ve constantly tried it and lost it.”