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Banned Gatlin: I'm never going to give in

24 January 2008

Suspended Olympic 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin has said he will never abandon his fight to reverse a four-year doping ban.

"I can't," Gatlin told Reuters in a telephone call from his Pensacola, Florida home on Wednesday.

"I've got to do the best I can to clear this so my kids, when I have them, won't have to go to school and have people talk about their father.

"I'm never going to give in. This is my life."

The 25-year-old American sprinter is appealing a ban for a 2006 positive test to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the hope of returning to competition in time for this year's Beijing Olympics.

For years, Gatlin enjoyed a life in the fast lane -- becoming the 2004 Athens Olympic champion and winning world titles in both the 100 and 200 meters at the 2005 IAAF world championships.

Now he trains alone at the University of West Florida track with no coach, knowing many in the world believe he is a cheat.

He would like to feel he was still the old Justin, the hometown hero who Pensacolans still ask for an autograph and seek his presence to hand out medals at local meets, but he knows reality paints another picture.

In April 2006 at the Kansas Relays, Gatlin tested positive for the banned male sex hormone testosterone and its precursors.

Because he had tested positive in 2001 for an amphetamine contained in medication he took for 10 years for Attention Deficit Disorder, a three-member U.S. arbitration panel this month ruled the 2006 test was his second positive.

He was subsequently handed a four-year suspension even though the International Association of Athletics Federations had reinstated him a year after the 2001 test.

"I still don't know what happened to me," Gatlin said of the 2006 positive test.

"I have never knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drug. It's like I've been hit by a car but I didn't see the car coming and I didn't see it leave," Gatlin said.

"I'm just laying here and it feels like not many people who were there for me when I was standing are there to pick me up."

The 2001 test has always haunted him because Gatlin feels it was never resolved the way he wanted.

"Being [involved with] a disability and it being overlooked as a disability, it left the floodgates open," he said.

"It was like a festering, open wound. Any little thing could happen to me and the first thing they could do was throw the book at me and I think that's what they did."

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