Doping ban costs sprinter shot at repeat in Olympics

Associated Press
Justin Gatlin: Sprinter isn't eligible to defend his Olympic title in the 100 meters despite his ban being reduced.

Sprinter Justin Gatlin got his doping ban reduced, but not by enough to make him eligible to defend his Olympic 100-meter title this year.


The 25-year-old sprinter had a potential eight-year ban reduced to four years, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday. With the ban set to expire May 24, 2010, it means Gatlin will be on the sidelines for the Beijing Olympics in August. He needed the ban reduced to two years to be eligible for the Olympic trials in June.

"We have no higher priority than the commitment we have made to clean competition," U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said. "If that means leaving behind when we go to the Games an athlete who has the talent and ability to break world records, but has also cheated, so be it. That's an easy choice to make. It's what the American public expects, and it's what the overwhelming majority of our athletes who choose to compete clean deserve."

Details of the ban first were reported by The Washington Post.

USADA general counsel Bill Bock confirmed the report to The Associated Press, saying arbitrators acknowledged the help Gatlin provided to federal authorities "in investigating doping in sport, to extent of wearing wire in communications with his former coach," Trevor Graham.

In 2006, Gatlin tested positive for a banned substance for the second time and, under anti-doping rules, was supposed to receive a lifetime suspension.

But because of the special circumstances behind his first positive test -- he was taking medicine to treat attention-deficit disorder -- he reached an agreement with USADA that called for a maximum eight-year ban.

Gatlin's agreement with USADA called for him not to argue that the second positive test was faulty, but also gave him the right to seek a further reduction through arbitration.

Bock said USADA argued Gatlin didn't provide the agency with "real material assistance" in its investigation. But Bock said Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the BALCO steroid investigation, testified about the assistance Gatlin provided to federal authorities in the Graham case.

Graham faces charges of lying to federal investigators.

Bock said USADA was satisfied with the arbitrators' decision.


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