Gatlin’s ban reduced to four years

Sprinter Justin Gatlin got his doping ban reduced but not by enough to make him eligible to defend his Olympic 100-meter title this year, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old sprinter had a potential eight-year ban reduced to four years, retroactive to April 2006, which means he’ll still be on the sidelines for the Beijing Olympics in August. He needed the ban reduced to two years to be eligible in time for the Olympic trials next June.

Details of the ban were first reported by The Washington Post.

In 2006, Gatlin tested positive for a banned substance for the second time and, under anti-doping rules, was supposed to receive a lifetime suspension.

But because of the special circumstances behind his first positive test — he was taking medicine to treat attention-deficit disorder — he reached an agreement with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that called for a maximum eight-year ban.

The agreement called for Gatlin not to argue that the second positive test was faulty, but also gave him the right to seek a further reduction through arbitration.

USADA was expected to announce the arbitration decision this week. USADA CEO Travis Tygart did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the decision.

Gatlin received the further reduction because of help he provided USADA in its case against track coach Trevor Graham.

Gatlin reportedly has met with Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the BALCO steroid investigation, and made calls, including at least one in Novitzky’s presence, to Graham.

Graham faces charges of lying to federal investigators.

Gatlin, who held himself up as a role model for clean competition before his positive test, claims he doesn’t know how steroids got into his system before the test in April 2006.

Graham has accused Oregon massage therapist Chris Whetstine of rubbing a steroid cream on Gatlin to trigger the positive test, but Whetstine has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Gatlin’s arbitration hearing — before a three-member panel overseen by the American Arbitration Association — was held in July and was not open to the public.

It was more like a sentencing hearing than one about the merits of the case, and the result is in line with USADA’s longstanding policy of being more lenient with accused and convicted dopers who are willing to help the agency catch others.

While it seemed sure that Gatlin would end up with something less than an eight-year sentence, the magic number was really two years. Under the decision expected to be announced this week, it is still conceivable he could stick around four more years for the London Olympics.

The sentencing means Gatlin will have no immediate chance to regain his world record in the 100 meters. He shared the record of 9.77 seconds with Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, though Gatlin had his name removed from that record after his positive test. Since then, Powell has improved on the record, finishing in 9.74 seconds in September.