Athletics received just the tonic it needed at a thrilling Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday after a week tainted by the positive drugs tests of two of the best-ever male sprinters.
The failed tests of American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell, second and fourth fastest men of all time, and Powell’s compatriot, three-time Olympic medallist Sherone Simpson, again brought into question the credibility of track and field just ahead of the world championships in Moscow.
But that was dispelled as a high-quality line-up led by American sprinter Justin Gatlin, Kenyans Asbel Kiprop and Edwin Soi, and an unlikely new European record in the 1500m going to Briton Mo Farah in perfect, balmy conditions at the Stade Louis II.
Gay was expected to run in Monaco, where he set the stadium record of 19.72sec over 200m in 2010, and maintain an impressive streak of early-season unbeaten form in his battle against Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt.
In their absence, Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion who rebounded from a four-year doping ban to win bronze at the London Games, scorched to victory in the 100m in 9.94sec, pushed all the way by teammate Dentarius Locke (9.96) and Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut (9.99).
“I felt really good out there,” said the 31-year-old Gatlin, who also ran the anchor leg for a US 4x100m relay team. To run the relay and the 100m the way I did, well I think it proves I’m ready for the world championships.”
Earlier in the evening, Farah’s decision to compete in the 1500m, stepping down from the 5,000 and 10,000m in both of which he is defending Olympic champion, was rewarded with a European record. The Briton was in fifth with two laps to run after a fast pace set by two hares.
Kenyan world champion and 2008 Olympic gold medallist Kiprop then fired through solo with 400m to go and clocked an astonishing 3:27.72, the fourth fastest time ever run over the distance.
Farah kicked to cling on to Kiprop’s coattails for second in a new European record of 3:28.81, smashing Steve Cram’s previous best of 3:29.67 set in 1985 — exactly the pace he was seeking as a warm-up to his bid to repeat his Olympic double gold (5,000 and 10,000m) on the world stage in Moscow.
“It would have been nice to get closer to Asbel, but he’s got another gear and he kept stretching away,” said Farah.