Athletics: Powell preparing to set record straight against Gatlin

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The Independent Online

As Michael Johnson would have expected, Asafa Powell had little to say for himself when he arrived in London yesterday. Other than the fact that he is capable of running 9.70 seconds for the 100 metres, 0.07sec faster than the world record he shares with Justin Gatlin. And that all those athletes who cheat with drugs should be banned for life, if not given jail sentences. Oh, and that he believes Gatlin's version of the record, set last month, was probably invalid.

The laid-back 23-year-old Jamaican may not have the swagger, the buzz phrases or the tattoos of his predecessor as world record holder, Maurice Greene - the absence of which Johnson, in his post-athletic incarnation as a media commentator, appeared to be lamenting recently. But in his quietly smiling way, Powell is outspoken and uncompromising.

He has made no secret of the fact that he wishes Gatlin had stuck to his contractual agreement to race in Sunday's Norwich Union Grand Prix at Gateshead, where the two rivals were due to meet until Gatlin withdrew, claiming that the North-east meeting was "too cold and too early".

Powell foresees a couple of races this season involving both, with one scheduled to be the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on 28 July.

The Gateshead showdown became less likely following Gatlin's performance in Doha on 18 May, when he was credited with 9.76sec, before the time was rounded up to 9.77 a few days later.

Powell recalled yesterday how news of the American's effort had been brought to him by a Jamaican reporter. "I told him 'Go back and get your facts straight'," he recalled with a grin. "But then everyone came back and said 'It's true, it's true'. But then people were saying there was something wrong about it. They were saying they had watched the race and it seemed real slow. No one believed in it. So why should I?" Powell's scepticism has been provoked not just by the timing alteration, but by other performances on the night, notably that of Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria, who set an African record of 9.85sec in second place.

"I beat Fasuba pretty easily in the Commonwealth Games," Powell said. "His best was 10.09 before Doha. That was a pretty big jump to make." Powell has also noted rumours that the following wind was well over the permitted limit of one metre per second. "Other athletes in that race were saying the wind speed had to be plus four or plus five." His estimation of his time this year was offered reluctantly in response to a question. "9.77 to 9.70," he said. "It's an arm's length away."

There is an outside chance that the Gateshead 100m might contain Britain's Dwain Chambers, who has served his two-year doping ban but is in negotiations with the international body over repaying race fees from before his positive test. Powell has trained with Chambers in Jamaica in recent weeks, and says the Briton is "looking good".