Gatlin turns on the power to take gold

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The Independent Online

When Justin Gatlin became entangled in the drug-testing net three years ago, he managed to wriggle out of it on the grounds of suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Not that there was anything wrong with the young American's powers of concentration when the gun fired to start the men's 100m final in the Olympic Stadium last night.

When Justin Gatlin became entangled in the drug-testing net three years ago, he managed to wriggle out of it on the grounds of suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Not that there was anything wrong with the young American's powers of concentration when the gun fired to start the men's 100m final in the Olympic Stadium last night.

Gatlin was out of his blocks in a flash and gunning all the way to victory. He crossed the line in 9.85sec, missing Donovan Bailey's Olympic record by 0.01sec and prevailing by an identical margin ahead of the fast-finishing Francis Obikwelu, a native Nigerian running for Portugal. Maurice Greene, the defending champion, had to settle for the bronze medal, clocking 9.87sec, with the pre-race favourites Shawn Crawford and Asafa Powell fourth and fifth and the reigning world champion Kim Collins only sixth.

"This is why I shovel snow off North Carolina tracks in the middle of winter," Gatlin said. "The race was magnificent. I felt I was 100 miles above everybody else. It was so close, but that's how I felt."

Back in 2002, Gatlin felt relieved when the International Association of Athletics Federations lifted the two-year suspension he had been given a year earlier after testing positive for a banned stimulant. The sport's governing body accepted medical advice that the offending substance had been contained in medication that the Brooklyn-born athlete had been taking since childhood to ease the symptoms of ADHD.

Still, the cloud of doping hanging over sprinting in the States did cast a reflective shadow over Gatlin's victory. Like Crawford, the 22-year-old happens to be guided by Trevor Graham, the sprint coach who has emerged as a pivotal figure in the investigation into the activities of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

In a memo leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle last month, Graham was revealed as the "mystery" coach who launched the whole inquiry - by sending a syringe containing the hitherto unknown and undetectable 'designer' steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, which has since become known as THG, to the US Anti-Doping Agency.

An Olympic silver medallist with the Jamaican 4x400m relay team in Seoul in 1988, Graham has also been accused of supplying illegal performance-enhancing drugs to his athletes. The man who made Marion Jones the world's fastest woman and who helped Tim Montgomery become the 100m world record holder has strenuously denied the claims.

Not that such matters were of any immediate concern to Mark Lewis-Francis and Jason Gardener, whose failure to negotiate the semi-finals earlier last night made it the first Olympic men's 100m final without a British sprinter since the Montreal Games of 1976.

Lewis-Francis trailed in fifth in the first semi, missing the cut for the final by one place and 0.06sec with a time of 10.28sec. Gardener was also fifth in the second race, clocking 10.12sec, his best time of the season.

It was certainly not the best of days in the Olympic Stadium for Team GB. In the semi-finals of the women's 400m, Christine Ohuruogu, Donna Fraser and Lee McConnell all came to grief, placing fifth, seventh and eighth in their respective races. Mike East, though, advanced to the final of the men's 1500m as the fastest "loser", finishing sixth in his semi-final in 3min 36.46sec.

It was a good day for the hosts; Fani Halkia, a Greek television journalist, was roared to an Olympic record of 52.77sec in the semi-finals of the women's 400m hurdles. And it was an even better day for Sweden.

Having endured 28 years without an Olympic gold from a Swedish-born athlete, they collected a second and third in the space of 24 hours, Stefan Holm (with a 2.36m high jump) and Christian Olsson (with a 17.79m triple jump) following Carolina Kluft's lead from the conclusion to the heptathlon on Saturday.

The silver medal in the high jump went to Matt Hemingway of the US, not the first member of his family to make a name for himself. His grandfather was a cousin of Ernest Hemingway.

The former white-water rafting guide would have taken gold on countback had he cleared his last attempt at 2.36m. But when he clipped the upright, everybody knew for whom the bar rolled.

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