Ten years and 50 weeks ago, Justin Gatlin was suspended from professional track and field for using a banned substance. His ban, originally eight-years, was reduced to four after his cooperation with doping officials. This suspension took place at the height of his popularity: only two-years removed from gold-medal performance in the 100m during the 2004 Olympic Games, three-times a World Champion the following year, and just a few years removed from racing his way to six NCAA Championships at the University of Tennessee.
Last night, Gatlin returned to London, England - a place where he raced to a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics - and defeated the greatest sprinter of all-time, Usain Bolt, for the 2017 World 100m Championship. His journey from doping outcast to champion, although controversial, should be a teaching moment to all of us who have failed, try and try again to be successful, and realize that a journey to greatness can not be achieved without the support of others.
Here are our takeaways:
Always Persevere - There is a saying that Samurai are taught at an early age: fall seven, rise eight. You fail, you get back up. You loose, you try again. You screw up, you try to do better. Gatlin's poor and selfish decision making that lead to his greatest failure was so big that he was not allowed in a track stadium for nearly half a decade. But that didn't stop him - so don't let failure stop you.
Great Things (most of the time) Take Time - Being about to bounce back from failure or lapses in judgement take time. No one can change who they are overnight. However, with a heightened state of self-awareness and clear understanding of the process of your goals, you can gain perspective, stay more engaged in the moment, and learn understand that your goals will come - if you can take your time.
Selflessness - After winning last night, Gatlin repeatedly told reporters that the difference between this championship and others where he could't beat Bolt was, "I usually sit and think a lot about myself and my plan. But tonight, I was thinking about my family, my friends, and the people that got me to this point. This race was not about me tonight - I was doing it for them." If you are coming back from redemption or failure, odds are you have a support team around you to make sure you are making the proper steps to come back (and if you don't have that type of group, you need to get one - now). People who are successful over a long period of time don't just do things for selfish reasons, they want to best represent and make proud the people that got them there. Gatlin, whose doping actions should and are considered extremely selfish, accomplished what was once that the impossible when he let is focus move away from himself (for once) and put his attention on those who got him there. Needless to say, the results where better. When you are coming back from failure, don't just make yourself better for you - focus on getting better and bouncing back because of the people that are around you.
Whether you love or hate Justin Gatlin, it's hard not to recognize that nearly eleven-years after he was banned, going from banned-doper to defeating the fastest man who has ever walked the earth is pretty amazing. And although the actions that warranted his suspension where appalling, his comeback and teachable moments for those who have failed, are ones of true inspiration.