Justin Gatlin, who has agreed to an eight-year ban after admitting a doping offence, could have his punishment reduced if he offers evidence about others involved in his offence.
The Olympic and world 100 metres champion, who tested positive for testosterone last month, is sure to be stripped of his share of the world record, which will now become the sole property of Jamaica's Asafa Powell, who has run 9.77sec three times.
But Gatlin, who has agreed to co-operate with the US Anti-Doping Agency, could see his suspension halved if he is willing to give information about others who may have facilitated his doping.
Gatlin's options were confirmed yesterday by Nick Davies, spokesman for the International Association of Athletics Federations. "We want to know how the doping got there and see if it leads to other people and other convictions," Davies said. "For us, this is the key issue. We would accept eight years or even less - but four years would be the minimum."
Gatlin, 24, was originally facing a life ban under IAAF rules, having tested positive for amphetamine in 2001. But the USADA decided to seek an eight-year ban because Gatlin's first offence was reduced under "exceptional circumstances" - it was accepted that the drug was contained in prescribed medication - and had agreed to co-operate in the case.
In this respect, Gatlin appears to differ from Britain's leading sprinter, Dwain Chambers, who is back this season after a two-year doping ban, and who has resisted calls to name those who had assisted him in his offence.
"We want to know the whole truth about what really happened," Davies added. "If Gatlin just says, 'I don't know what happened', that's not good enough. We want him to co-operate fully with USADA."
Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, is currently the subject of an investigation by the IAAF over possible doping violations. Eleven athletes coached by Graham have registered doping infringements in the last five years.
Meanwhile, Powell, who is alone again as the world's fastest man, said: "I said I would get it [the record] back one way or another. It is also good to clean up the sport.
"I'm sure people are saying a lot about me and other sprinters," he added. "It doesn't affect me in any way since I know I'm clean. I just laugh. The only drug I'm taking right now is God. He is the only one who is pushing me."