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Gatlin’s finish at U.S. Championships solidifies innocence

Despite finishing second at the 2011 U.S. Track and Field Championships, Justin Gatlin is victorious. (Steve Dipaola / Reuters)

He was once the fastest man in the world. Then he was expelled from track and field for cheating. Through it all, Justin Gatlin maintained that he was set-up — that he did not intentionally take a United States Anti-Doping Agency banned substance.

On Friday in Eugene, Ore. Gatlin proved that there may be some truth behind his words.

After returning to the sport that he dominated in the early part of the 2000’s in 2010 from a four-year doping suspension, Gatlin was inched out by Walter Dix in the 100-meters at the U.S. Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field. Dix won in 9.94 seconds and Gatlin finished in 9.95.

“I had a lot of pent up frustration, sadness and anger at the end of the race today. I just let out a roar,” Gatlin said after the race according to usatf.org.  “I just let it all out. I cried at the end I was so happy.”

In July of 2006, Gatlin found out that he tested positive for extra amounts of testosterone.  In August of that same year, Gatlin agreed to an eight year ban in track and field, despite his claim that he was sabotaged by massage therapist Christopher Whetstine (who is based out of Eugene).  The International Association of Athletics bought Gatlin’s claim, reducing his ban to four years because of “exceptional circumstances.”

Gatlin returned to the track last year, running around 10 seconds in roughly three meets in which he won two. And now, he returns to the World Championships, a meet that saw him win gold medals in both the 100 and 200,  six years later.

I believe Gatlin more than ever and who wouldn’t? An athlete, who was taken away from the sport that he was great in at the height of his career, at the height of his prime, comes back from a four year absence to practically pick back up where he left off (his fastest time ever, if you don’t count the 9.77 that was annulled, is 9.85) should prove to everyone that Gatlin is that good. It should prove to people that he didn’t then, as a three-time Olympic medalist, need performance enhancers as he doesn’t now.

Gatlin is blessed with the gift of speed — and it is a gift that needs no help.

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