Gatlin return gathers pace

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TALLINN, August 9 – Disgraced former Olympic 100 metres champion Justin Gatlin made it three wins from three races since returning from a four year doping suspension as he won here on Sunday.The 28-year-old – who failed a dope test for testosterone three months after equalling Asafa Powell’s then world record of 9.77sec in 2006 – timed 10.17sec running into a headwind, beating home unheralded compatriot Rubin Williams (10.25sec).

Gatlin, whose stated aim is to gain selection for the 2012 Olympics in London, had returned to action by winning two 100m races at the meet in Rakvere, Estonia, last Tuesday.

Gatlin, world champion in 2005 in both the 100m and 200m, is barred from all the leading European meets.

"I am very glad with the result today (Sunday)," Gatlin told AFP.

"My aim was to be better than at the last competition and I bettered that today by seven hundreths of a second."

Gatlin, who lost 20 pounds over the past year as he battles to regain his place among the leading sprinters, was adamant when asked whether he was looking to qualifying for the 2012 Olympics and a bid to regain the title he won in Athens in 2004.

"Yes, definitely," said Gatlin.

However, he conceded that any dreams of rivalling the times being run by the leading trio of Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Powell were firmly on the back burner.

"I am taking my return at the moment with a modest aim – the only aim I have in front of me is to be better than last time at every competition," he said.

Gatlin had a special word of gratitude for those people who had stayed faithful to him and his ability, especially as he has always protested his innocence.

"I wish to thank all my fans – I want to thank them more than ever. It’s easy to have lot of fans when you are the top and all is well. So I really do appreciate a lot all the support I have got from the fans who have remained with me," said Gatlin.

His mother Jeanette was trackside to watch her son compete and condemned the sanction imposed on him.

"I feel it (the four-year ban) was unjust, very unjust and here in Estonia I have felt so happy for him," she told AFP. "I really hope he will make a good comeback."

Gatlin, who during his ban vainly tried his luck with three NFL teams as a wide receiver without being drafted, declined to comment.

"I am dedicating myself fully to sport now and am planning to return more strongly next season," Gatlin said.

His next competition will be in Joensuu in Finland on August 21 and he also plans to return to Tallinn during the indoor season.

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