Sun, Aug 27, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Gatlin continues to claim innocence

NO IDEAThe world record holder said he still did not know how the testosterone got into hsi system and that he was hoping for a favorable outcome from arbitration

AP , DENVER

Justin Gatlin said on Friday he has "no idea how any banned substance got into my body," and restated his plan to appeal the eight-year ban from track he received earlier this week after acknowledging he tested positive for doping.

In a statement released through his publicists, the Olympic and world champion in the 100m reiterated his disdain for cheating in a sport that has been wracked with doping issues.

"Cheating, in any form, is completely contrary to who I am as an athlete and a person," said Gatlin, who has long positioned himself as a champion of drug-free competition in track. "I will continue to cooperate with USADA and with their efforts to get to the bottom of this situation."

But, he said he still fully intended to file for arbitration, in hopes of reducing the eight-year ban he received from the US Anti-Doping Agency.

"I expect when the arbitration process is concluded that this entire matter will be resolved favorably," he said.

Gatlin has six months to appeal to an American arbitration panel. After that, he can take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Tuesday, Gatlin and USADA reached an agreement that scaled back his penalty from a lifetime ban to a maximum of eight years in exchange for Gatlin's help in other doping investigations -- presumably one involving his coach, Trevor Graham.

The agreement also acknowledged that Gatlin's first positive test, five years ago, was an honest mistake -- the result of his taking medicine to treat attention-deficit disorder.

In exchange, Gatlin agreed not to argue the validity of the latest positive tests, which found testosterone or other steroids in his system after an April race. He retained his right -- as all athletes do -- to appeal the case to arbitrators in hopes of a reduced sentence.

Gatlin's attorney, Cameron Myler, would not confirm that she will argue Graham's claim -- that Gatlin was sabotaged by a vengeful massage therapist who rubbed steroid cream into his skin. On Tuesday, Myler said she wasn't prepared to offer her strategy for the arbitration. She did not return messages left by reporters on Friday. USADA chief executive officer Terry Madden declined to comment.

With the Olympics less than two years away, the clock is ticking fast for Gatlin. Even if his suspension were reduced significantly -- say to two years -- he would miss Olympic trials in June 2008.

"We're shooting for something way less than two years," Myler said earlier in the week. "The goal is to have him back on the track as soon as possible."

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