US sprinter Gatlin reveals 2010 apology for dope offence

Beijing, Aug 30 (IANS) Repeatedly branded as a drug cheat following his return from a dope-related ban, American sprinter Justin Gatlin made an attempt to win over critics on Sunday by releasing letters that reveal the extent of his co-operation with US anti-doping investigators.

The letters, some of which were written to top officials of the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) in 2010, reveal Gatlin’s apparent remorse at bringing the sport into disrepute.

“I am sincerely remorseful and it continues to be my mission to be a positive role model mentoring to athletes to avoid the dangers and public and personal humiliation of doping. And the harm it brings to the sport of athletics,” Gatlin wrote in one letter which was addressed directly to the IAAF’s outgoing president, Lamine Diack, and his then senior vice-president Sergey Bubka.

“I have co-operated fully with the United States federal investigation to clean up our sport of track and field working toward it becoming drug free,” he added in the letter which was revealed by the Guardian on Sunday.

Gatlin, who incurred a four-year ban in 2006 for testing positive for a banned substance, began competing again in August 2010, soon after his eligibility was reinstated.

The former Olympic champion had earlier been handed a two-year ban in 2001, but the punishment was later reduced to one year after an appeal.

The former Olympic champion enjoyed a successful outing at the World Athletics Championships here, bagging silver medals in the 100 metre and 200m events behind Jamaican icon Usain Bolt.

But the 33-year-old has been greeted by deafening boos every time he turned out at the Bird’s Nest Stadium and Sunday’s move appears to be aimed at mitigating some of the negative perception about him.

Gatlin’s agent Renaldo Nehemiah said his client was unfairly carrying the burden of all drug cheats and the sprinter himself hoped that his performance at the Bird’s Nest have changed the public’s perception.

“A relief. A relief because I worked very hard this season. I ran, even in regular season, very hard and through all my ups and downs I still came out here,” Gatlin told the media here on Sunday.

“I think I showed poise and I showed that I am a human being. I am happy to be running in the Bird’s Nest at a championship and get ready for next year,” he added.

“I wouldn’t say (I felt) pressure. I would just say obviously I am the most criticised athlete in track and field.”

Despite copping a lot of fierce criticism in recent times, the former world champion is determined to keep improving as an athlete.

“I can’t be anything more or anything less. I’ve just got to get up and be Justin Gatlin. I said I would go out and run to the ability that I know I am and I don’t back down from that,” he said.

“Each year I’ve gotten better because I know I can get better. I just kind of use my blinders and keep going forwards.”

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