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Jamaica`s Powell sympathises with Gatlin

2 April 2007

By Gary Smith

Jamaica’s world record holder Asafa Powell has showed some sympathy for banned American sprinter, Justin Gatlin, the man he built a huge rivalry with in the last two outdoor campaigns.

Powell and Gatlin, who both ran world records last year, were seen as perhaps the key individuals to bring back the life in the track and field sprinting world until reports suggested that Gatlin used enhancing drugs to boost his performance on the track.

However, Powell, who raced to the record of 9.77-seconds twice last season, still feels some compassion for his American counterpart, who is in danger of losing his world record credibility.

“There is some bitterness, knowing that he (Gatlin) was taking drugs,” Powell was quoted as saying in the Sunday Telegraph.

“But there’s a part of me that is very sorry for him because there were some mixed reports about it and he said he didn’t knowingly take drugs."

“You don’t know what to believe, but I just can’t imagine how wrecked his life is now,” he added.

After running 10.50-secs during the High School championships in Jamaica, Powell was well scouted and offered numerous opportunities to pursue his career in the United States. However, the Commonwealth Games champion opted to train at home with current coach Stephen Francis - citing the negative reputation of some American track and field communities, one of his biggest reasons for staying on home turf.

"Over the years, even before I started track and field, people always had bad things to say about Americans because over the years many of their athletes have tested positive," Powell said.

"People have always had that negative thinking about Americans. You have some athletes there who want to do it clean but there are also athletes who are tempted to do it because it's hard to make a living, and that's the only way out they see."

Last year Powell created history, when he became the first man to repeat world records in the year on his way to achieving a record mark of 12 sub-10 second performances during one season and the 2006 World Athlete of the Year, said he knows there were people who believed he was on drugs too.

"I'm sure a lot of people think that I'm taking banned substances," he said. "It's natural because last year a lot of athletes tested positive. When Justin tested positive I was the next person for people to look at.

"A lot of people were saying that I must be on drugs and that upset me because I know I'm not on drugs. It's very frustrating. No matter what I say or what I do, people are still going to say, 'Asafa Powell must have taken drugs'.

"I suppose it's natural because I used to say things like that at one time; before I was into track and field. I'd say, 'that sprinter's taking drugs and that's why he's running so fast' or 'once you go to America you end up taking drugs'. I didn't understand things fully at that time. Now I just want to show the world how fast an athlete can run without taking drugs, and that's where I'm going right now."

Powell is currently preparing to make his international 2007 debut. The Jamaican national 200-metre champion will compete as part of the Maximizing Velocity and Power (MVP) track and field club team at the 49th Mount SAC Relays in San Antonio, on April 15, then at the 113th Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, two weeks later.

He will be joined by fellow Jamaicans Michael Frater, the reigning World Championships 100m silver medalist and Ainsley Waugh. The team is completed by Trinidad’s world junior record holder and 2003 world silver medal winner Darrel Brown.

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