Redemption ranks high on the Gatlin agenda

Last Updated 30 January 2010, 18:15 IST

Justin Gatlin is learning how to sprint again, a fact that has little to do with the American's four-year absence from athletics under a doping ban.

With a new coach and a new philosophy on running, the former Olympic and world champion is working hard to get back to top speed.

"Everything I learned I had to throw it out the window and learn a whole new technique," Gatlin told Reuters in a telephone interview from Naples, Florida.
Maximum velocity is now his aim.

"Maximum velocity is your top end running speed, the maximum speed you can generate down the track," said Gatlin's new coach, Loren Seagrave.

"Although people spend a heck of a lot of time on the start, it (maximum velocity) is the single biggest determinant of who wins and who doesn't win," said the veteran coach. 
"Particularly in the men's races, as they are looking at dipping well into the 9.5s, because people are not decelerating any more. The only reason they are decelerating is because of celebration," Seagrave added.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100 metres champion and 200 metres bronze medallist, has not competed since 2006 when, then coached by Trevor Graham, he failed a doping test for excessive amounts of testosterone, the second positive of his career.

He was banned for two years in 2001 for a failed test for amphetamines, but the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) reduced the suspension to one year after Gatlin pointed out the substance was found in medication he had taken since childhood for attention deficit disorder.

His current ban expires on July 24. "I have a second chance to redeem myself," said the soon-to-be 28-year-old. "To go out and prove to the world that I am a great athlete."

The goal was to have Gatlin running some of the fastest times in the world by late August and early September, Seagrave said.  "He has got all the physical tools to be able to run in the (9.)70s, maybe even the 60s," the coach said. It could be up to 18 months before Gatlin reached his full potential, Seagrave stressed.

Fast 100 metres times will be necessary for Gatlin to keep up with today's top sprinters -- Jamaican double world record holder Usain Bolt, American world silver medallist Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell, the former world record holder.

"I could beat them before," Gatlin said. "I don't see why I can't run with them. Times don't scare me. You've got to respect the times but I feel if one man can do it, then the next man can."

His personal best of 9.85 seconds and even his 2006 world record-equalling 9.77 seconds that was nullified by his doping ban are significantly slower, however, than the best marks of Bolt (9.58 seconds) and Gay (9.69).  

"I think he's going to have his hands full, not only by me and Asafa and Tyson, but other young and upcoming athletes," Bolt told the Jamaica Observer.

Gatlin, though, said he did not believe his age or long absence would be a deterrent.
"I think that me sitting out for this while, having this hiatus, has elongated my life in the sport," he said. "I think it is prime time for me."

Whether the 2005 double sprint world champion will run again in prime time one-day meetings is debatable.

Organisers of the new Diamond League circuit and key European meetings have agreed in principle not to invite athletes who have served major doping bans.

However, both the IAAF and USA Track & Field (USATF) said they would not interfere with organisers determining who competes in their meetings.  "

(Published 30 January 2010, 14:09 IST)

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