'I am more than two bans,' confident Gatlin says

Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:24am EDT
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By Gene Cherry

BEIJING (Reuters) - To many, sprinter Justin Gatlin will forever be the bad guy of track and field: a drug cheat forced to serve not one but two doping bans.

As he nears the biggest race of his life, against Usain Bolt at the world championships on Sunday, the American hopes the world recognizes he is more than that - much more.

The 100 meters showdown in Beijing matches the 33-year-old, undefeated for two years in sprints, against Jamaican world record holder Bolt in the blue riband event.

With world athletics continuing to wrestle with a series of doping allegations which have rocked the sport in recent weeks, the Gatlin-Bolt clash has come, to many, to represent a tangible manifestation of the sport's woes.

The championships will be littered with drug cheats who have served their punishment, but Gatlin holds a special place in the Hall of Shame.

In normal circumstances that second positive test, in 2006, would have earned him a lifetime ban; but after he co-operated with anti-doping authorities he ended up exiled for only four years.

The 2004 Olympic and 2005 world 100 meters champion is now back and unbeaten since 2013 -- a total of 27 races in both 100m and 200m sprints.

Most of the build-up to the nine-day championships, which start on Saturday, has focused on doping with Gatlin's record very much to the fore.   Continued...

Justin Gatlin of the U.S. takes a selfie with supporters after winning the 100 meters men event at the IAAF Diamond League Herculis meeting at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco, July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet