Athletics: Chambers deserves to be at London Games, says Gatlin

Reuters, Monday 30 Apr 2012

The US sprinter backs the Briton after his lifetime ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport


World indoor sprint champion Justin Gatlin said Briton Dwain Chambers deserved the chance to compete at the London Olympics after his lifetime Games ban imposed by the British Olympic Association for doping was overturned on Monday.

"It would be an honour to line up against him in London," the American 2004 Olympic 100 metres champion, who is making a comeback from a four-year doping ban, told Reuters.

"He is still my competitor, but I am happy he will be able to support his family and able to be back to what his livelihood is, track and field. "He should not be punished twice."

Gatlin made the comments in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said the BOA's lifetime Games ban for drug cheats was an extra sanction.

The BOA were ordered to fall in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency's two-year ban for first-time offenders.

Like Chambers, Gatlin served time away from the sport for a positive doping test.

But while his British competitor's road to the Olympics was blocked by the now overturned BOA rule, the only barrier standing in Gatlin's way was the cut-throat American trials.

If you are fast enough to finish in the top three at the U.S. trials, the pathway to the Olympics is wide open for Americans. Drug offenders, like non-offenders, are eligible to compete once their suspensions are served.

For Chambers to carry on despite the BOA burden was admirable, said Gatlin.

"I can say that because our stories are similar," the 2005 world double sprint champion said.

"I understand the stress he has been through...the embarrassment and being ashamed but also the strength for him to hold his head up."

Here is a runner, Gatlin said, "who has served not only what time he served for his punishment, but also admitted to doing something and begged for the mercy of not only the track and field world but also his fans and his nation.

"It takes a strong person to be like that, to come back to something you were banned from and no one wanted you to be there."

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