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Gatlin runs in (three-ring) circles

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I am all for athletes exercising every right they have to seek exoneration in doping cases, since the well-intentioned system to fight performance-enhancing drug use remains capricious, often sloppy in handling and testing of samples and extremely costly to challenge.

That being said, I think 2004 Olympic 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin is being selfish in seeking an injunction to run at the Olympic trials that begin Friday in Eugene, Ore.

If a judge rules Monday he can compete at the trials, he will cause a circus that is guaranteed to annoy and overshadow the other athletes.

Were Gatlin to make the team, there is no chance the international track federation (IAAF) will allow him to run in Beijing. He is suspended four years because a positive 2006 test for the steroid testosterone was his second positive, following one for amphetamines in a medicine prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder.

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Sport’s supreme court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, this month rejected Gatlin’s appeal, which asked the 2001 test not be considered. CAS officials said that decision must be appealed to a Swiss court.

``For us, CAS decisions are final and binding,’' IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told me in a Monday email from the federation’s headquarters in Monte Carlo. There is a 1992 precedent for this, and it doesn’t bode well for Gatlin -– especially since

CAS, which took on its present structure in 1994, has become the ultimate authority in such cases.

In fact, it could leave him facing a longer penalty.

The United States Supreme Court ruled Butch Reynolds, then world record-holder in the 400 meters, must be allowed to run in the 1992 trials even though he was suspended two years for a positive steroid test.

Reynolds finished fifth, qualifying for consideration in the relay pool. The Barcelona Olympic Organizing Committee rejected his accreditation request because the IAAF said he was ineligible.

And then the IAAF extended Reynolds’ suspension five months because he had competed while suspended, knocking him out of lucrative European meets that followed.

Beyond all this is the question of whether Gatlin, who has not competed since June, 2006, is ready to compete against the intense competition at the trials.

Gatlin has taken one step that suggests he is serious. According to my sources, he has made himself available for out-of-competition testing. Had he not done that, Gatlin would not be allowed to run anywhere.

He shouldn’t run in the trials.
-- Philip Hersh


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