Justin Gatlin's agent Renaldo Nehemiah has announced the twice-banned former Olympic 100 metres champion has closed his Instagram and Twitter accounts because of an "anonymous hacker" who had posted an abusive reply to a Norwegian runner who had criticised the United States sprinter on his Instagram account.
Vegard Olstad, who is studying at Oklahoma State University, posted a picture of himself sticking a finger up at a televised image of Gatlin - whose nomination for the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) Athlete of the Year award next month has provoked much criticism - accompanied by the comment: "Druggers are not welcome!"
When the college runner later posted a picture of some chocolates he had received from his mother, it received an apparent response from Gatlin which began:
"Your mom gives the best b*** j*** too. She's awesome. U can call me daddy like she does."
But Nehemiah, the first man to run the 110m hurdles in under 13 seconds, claimed: "Any comments posted on Justin Gatlin's Instagram and Twitter accounts were made by an anonymous hacker.
"Justin Gatlin has not ever made any disparaging remarks to anyone, especially his fans.
"Because of this unfortunate and cruel individual, Justin has closed both of his accounts to the public.
"He has had a very successful year and is thankful for the support from his fans."
The apparent post from Gatlin contained a series of crude comments: "Slap your mom for me u non counting idiot. While you're at it add some wins for me too. Then go do your research if you want to state true facts. Haters like you will never make it in life.
"U don't even no me lil boy lol but u goooooot to hate like your doing a justice right?
"Point is focus on your own lame life. I'm still winning your still crying.
"U don't sprint! Your not a pro! Hell your not American so go home!
"I check you stats and u suck! Lmao so this is 5min of fame right here champ.
"FYI tell your mom hi for me."
Gatlin finished the season unbeaten with the best times recorded for both the 100m of 9.77sec and the 200m of 19.68, and as such has earned a place among the 10 athletes nominated for the World Athlete of the Year award at the International Athletics Foundation Gala on November 21.
The IAAF insisted it had no choice but to allow Gatlin's nomination.
A spokesman said: "Gatlin, as an eligible athlete who has had a great season is, logically, also eligible for consideration for the Athlete of the Year contest in the absence of any bylaw to prevent that happening."
But German discus thrower Robert Harting withdrew his name from the Athlete of the Year shortlist in protest of Gatlin's nomination, while IAAF vice-president Sebastian Coe admitted he is "not particularly comfortable about" Gatlin being on the list.
Harting, the world and Olympic champion, added that he had no plans to have his name back on the Athlete of the Year list as long as Gatlin, who is competing again after serving a four-year ban between 2006 and 2010 for a second offence, remained on it.
"I am ready to stand for election again," Harting told DPA news agency.
"But only if athletes who have misbehaved are scrapped from this year's list and are subject of a general nomination ban in the future."
The shortlist of 10 men and 10 women is selected by an international panel of athletics experts from around the world.
The athletics family including athletes, IAAF officials, meeting directors, sponsors and the media elect the winners.
The IAAF list of male nominations this year also contains the name of LaShawn Merritt, who returned to the sport in 2011 after serving a two-year ban for doping, reduced to 21 months.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
October 2014: USADA doping crusader Tygart says Gatlin deserves a chance of "redemption"
October 2014: Coe has "big problems" with Gatlin's IAAF award nomination
October 2014: Harting asks IAAF to remove him from World Athlete of the Year shortlist in protest at Gatlin nomination
October 2014: Drugs cheat Gatlin a controversial inclusion in IAAF World Athlete of the Year nominations