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Gatlin back in Doha after 4-year doping ban

Wednesday - 5/9/2012, 1:56pm  ET

By MICHAEL CASEY
AP Sports Writer

DOHA, Qatar (AP) - For Justin Gatlin, Doha will always be the place he made history _ even if his record is no longer in the books.

The American tied Asafa Powell's then-world record in the 100 meters by running 9.77 seconds in May, 2006. It was initially clocked at 9.76 before a timing error was discovered four days later.

However, the revised time was erased after he tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone two months later.

Now 30, Gatlin doesn't want to dwell on the four-year ban that followed, instead preferring to remember a "magical night." The 2004 Olympic gold medalist will race against Powell and Nesta Carter at the season-opening Diamond League meet on Friday.

"It's a very special place for me," Gatlin said Wednesday. "The night that I broke the world record was a magical night.

"Running the first round and basically equaling my PR, and coming back and knowing the second round could be faster with a better effort. I could see history being made on the track before long. Hopefully, coming into the race in a couple of days, I can do the same thing."

Much has changed since he returned to the track in July 2010, with Usain Bolt winning the 100 title among three Olympic gold medals and smashing the world record in a blistering 9.58 seconds.

Gatlin matured in his time away from the sport and has a son who is about to turn 2. At an age when most sprinters are contemplating retirement, Gatlin defied the odds to win the 60-meter race at the world indoor championships in March.

"I think I've become more of a man," he said. "I'm wiser, older, and I think I take competition more seriously.

"To be able to come back and show that I can win a championship, regardless of whether it's outdoors or indoors, against some good competition and put another gold medal under my name was a good stepping point coming into the outdoor season. It wasn't surreal. It was more a welcome home party. I felt good when I crossed that finishing line."

Gatlin has his sights set on the London Olympics _ and Bolt.

"Watching him perform great feats, it's breathtaking," Gatlin said. "But at the same time, he is a man and he still breathes the same air I breath. He still takes two steps to get to the line, like I take two steps to get to the line."

Should he qualify, Gatlin said he won't feel any shame about his past. He's also pleased that British sprinter Dwain Chambers has a chance of competing in his home Olympics.

Chambers served a two-year suspension after testing positive for a steroid in 2003. He was then banned for life from the games by the British Olympic Association. But sport's top court recently overturned such bans, ruling they amount to a second sanction.

"I just feel that whatever time we served, innocent or guilty, we served that time. To be back in the sport and then to take that privilege away from us ... is unjust," Gatlin said.

"As an adult and father, I'm happy that he is able to provide for his family, to be able to go out there and do what he loves to do. It's going to be in his own backyard. It would have been very bitter for him not to compete at the Olympics in his own backyard."

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Follow Michael Casey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcasey1


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