Rome - Justin Gatlin has insisted he holds
no fears over the Zika virus as he heads to Rio for a street 100m race on
Sunday, adamant that he would be back for the Olympics no matter what.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has
ruled out any change in the timing or location of the Olympic Games, shunning a
call by doctors and scientists to shift the event over the Zika virus.
The mosquito-borne Zika, which can also be
sexually transmitted, can cause birth defects, including a devastating syndrome
known as microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and
Despite a number of sportspeople deciding
not to take part in the Rio Games even if selected, Gatlin said he would have
"I guess I get my first crack at it
because I now leave for Rio," Gatlin said after edging fellow American
Ameer Webb to 100m victory at Thursday's Diamond League meeting in a season's
best 9.93 seconds.
"We don't get a chance to do a final
four or a Superbowl, the Olympics are our championships and at this point in
time, if Zika is not going to kill me, I'm going to be down there.
"It's such a mysterious disease or illness
or whatever you want to call it, a lot of people don't understand it. You've
just got to go down there and do what you've got to do.
"Focus on things outside your power
and you're going to be distracted."
Gatlin will first have to negotiate the notoriously
tough US Olympic trials, in which the depth in strength of American sprinting
"Everyone's ready for the trials. The
US trials are going to be a dogfight, someone like Ameer will be trying to
punch his ticket, he'll be ready and will show up," the 34-year-old said.
Gatlin produced a savage dip at the line to
edge Webb by just one-hundredth of a second, clocking a season's best.
The 2004 Olympic 100m champion, who went on
to win double sprint gold at the Helsinki worlds in 2005 before testing
positive for testosterone and serving a second ban between 2006-10, said he was
almost over his ankle injury.
"It's getting there, I'm about 97
percent fit. It's healed so I don't feel pain but when you're rehabbing you
don't get the strength to get off track and you can see that at the end of my
The Florida-based sprinter admitted that he
took inspiration from evergreen Kim Collins, the St Kitts and Nevis athlete who
won the 2003 world 100m title but this season, at the age of 40, ran 9.93sec in
the Bottrop 100m last month.
"At my age, as you get older, it gets
a little hazy about how long can I go," Gatlin said. "People like Kim
Collins still puts down good times.
"If my son wants to see me in 2020 in
Tokyo, I'll take a crack at it, but right now I'm just taking it year by year,
having an exciting time with it, loving it.
"Once you get to 30, as a man or
woman, you think about kids, settling down, you have other priorities that mean
you don't stay focused on just track.
"Getting older, you've got to train
smart. When you're young you can beat your body up and bounce back the next
Turning to Usain Bolt, who trumped Gatlin
at last year's world championships in Beijing when the American was heavily
fancied to upset the Jamaican 100 and 200m world record holder, he played down
"Is Bolt a nightmare for me?"
Gatlin asked. "No, he's a competitor. Plus there are six more competitors
in every race."