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Merritt apologises for 'foolish mistake'

Lashawn Merritt is not the first American sprinter to claim to be the victim of what might be termed a cock-up on the doping front.

The reigning world and Olympic 400m champion has tested positive for dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA, saying the anabolic steroid was contained in an over-the-counter male enhancement product he had taken.

When Dennis Mitchell, who took the Olympic 100m bronze medal running for the United States in the Barcelona Olympics in1992, fell foul of the drug testing system in 1998 he maintained that four cans of beer and "at least" four acts of copulation with his wife the night before his test explained the illegal level of testosterone level found in his urine sample. "It was her birthday," he said. "The lady deserved a treat."

That might have been the case, but the International Association of Athletics Federations concluded that what Mitchell himself deserved was a two-year ban. Merritt can now expect to suffer the same punishment after testing positive for DHEA, and pregnenolone on three separate occasions.

In a statement, Merrit said: "I hope my sponsors, family, friends and the sport itself will forgive me for making such a foolish, immature and egotistical mistake. Any penalty that I may receive for my action will not overshadow the embarrassment that I feel inside."