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Gatlin gets date with arbitration committee

23 May 2007

Justin Gatlin, the Olympic and world champion in the 100 meters and the co-world record holder in the event, will soon have a chance to officially defend himself against a doping charge. Gatlin's attorney John Collins confirmed this week that the runner's hearing before the American Arbitration Association has been scheduled for July 30 and 31, almost a year to the day Gatlin revealed that he had tested positive for illegal levels of testosterone.

Gatlin said on July 29, 2006, that the United States Anti-Doping Agency told him about the positive results from a test performed April 22 at the Kansas Relays. On May 12, Gatlin tied the 9.77 world record run by Jamaican Asafa Powell.

Gatlin says he never knowingly used the banned substance. Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, says a massage therapist who carried a grudge against Gatlin rubbed testosterone cream on Gatlin without the runner's knowledge it contained the drug.

Gatlin accepted an eight-year ban from track and field last August in exchange for agreeing to cooperate with doping officials. The United States Anti-Doping Agency is prosecuting the charge against Gatlin.

Collins anticipates the atmosphere at Gatlin's hearing will be less contentious than the one that has prevailed at the Floyd Landis AAA hearing that was set to end Wednesday.

"They're very different cases," Collins said. "Justin's not contesting the charges. Justin never took the substance. Justin's case is going to be his best explanation about how it got in to his system and will show all the different ways he's cooperated with antidoping authorities. He's been cooperating with the USADA and the federal government and everything he can. He's always been antidoping. He finds himself in a set of circumstances."

Collins did not specify how Gatlin has cooperated with the USADA and the U.S government.

Landis won the 2006 Tour de France but tested positive for illegal levels of testosterone after Stage 17 of the race. He denies using the drug, contends the process used by the French lab that conducted the tests is flawed and that the USADA violated antidoping code procedures in its prosecution of the case.

Collins does not expect Gatlin to be cleared of his doping charge. Collins said he would accept a decision that would at least reduce Gatlin's suspension. "If there's any justice, he doesn't deserve s penalty that would effectively end his career," he said.

Collins said Gatlin is staying fit. "He'd love to get back on the track," he said.

Gatlin served a one-year suspension in 2001 from IAAF, the sport's international governing body, after a test revealed an amphetamine in his system. Gatlin claimed the amphetamine came from a drug he has taken for attention deficit disorder since he was nine years old.

Gatlin has made recent attempts to play football in the National Football League. Earlier this month, Gatlin attended a mini-camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "If it o can transfer to football, you have a real threat," John Gruden, the team's coach, said of Gatlin's speed in an Associated Press report. "If it can't then it won't work." The Buccaneers did not invite him back to its next minicamp.

Gatlin says he also had tryouts with the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans. Neither team has invited him back for further tryouts. Gatlin says he last played football during his freshman year at the University of Tennessee.

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