Ottey back on trackin pursuit of Olympic farewell

Cleared of charges that she used banned steroids, which kept her out of international competition for a year, Merlene Ottey has begun her push at the Jamaican trials for one last Olympic appearance.

Cleared of charges that she used banned steroids, which kept her out of international competition for a year, Merlene Ottey has begun her push at the Jamaican trials for one last Olympic appearance.

Shortly after winning her 100 metres heat in 11:09sec on Thursday, Ottey once more declared her innocence and said her main focus was qualifying for the Sydney Olympics in September.

Despite her strong showing, the 40-year-old admitted the fight to clear her name had taken a heavy toll and that she still was not fully prepared for competition.

"I started to run and began to think 'What do I do now?' because I haven't raced much," she said. "I'm confident that in two to three weeks I'll be in my best shape. By the time it comes to Sydney, I should be the fastest around, or at least the fastest Jamaican for sure."

Last summer, Ottey withdrew from the World Championships in Seville after testing positive for nandrolone.

"At first, I was very angry because people didn't know me and they were pointing fingers and there were people I didn't expect to say some things that did, but I guess they all have their reasons," Ottey said.

"But it was only a small amount of people that were really against me, so I was able to let go of this bad feeling and try to focus on the majority of the people, who were for me, and that really helped."

She was initially cleared by the Jamaican Amateur Athletic Association, but the International Amateur Athletic Federation disregarded the decision and sent Ottey's case to arbitration, which cleared her earlier this month, concluding the laboratory had improperly tested her urine sample.

The American 800m record-holder Johnny Gray has retired after failing to qualify for the event's semi-finals in the US Olympic trials on Thursday.

The big event in the trials comes tomorrow, with the eagerly anticipated duel between the world record holder, Michael Johnson, and the world champion, Maurice Greene, in the 200m final. Greene claims he can beat Johnson, even though his career best in the 200m is 19.86 - well outside Johnson's world record of 19.32.

"First, Johnson is the world record holder, but he hasn't run anything close to that time in four years," said Greene. "Second, he's not strong enough to finish with me in a sprint. He'll have to be three or four steps in front coming off the curve, or it's over."

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