By ELLIOT MATHYE
THINGS are not looking well for Olympic gold medalist runner LaShawn Merritt who has been banned from the race track until July 2011 for using a banned substance found in an over-the-counter male improvement product.
The 24-year old won the 400-metre Olympic title in Beijing. He accepted a provisional suspension earlier this year and received a 21-month suspension from arbitrators again earlier in October 2010.
Merritt, who hails from Virginia tested positive for testosterone pro-hormones throughout three tests between October 2009 and January 2010.
After he cooperated with doping authorities, arbitrators took three months off the normal two-year ban for first-time offenders. In pronouncement of Merritt’s use of a substance called Extenze, the arbitration panel wrote that Merritt’s conduct “was exemplary and demonstrated tremendous character in making what had to be a painful and humiliating confession.”
In a statement released through his attorney, Merritt said he appreciated the arbitrators’ decision to reduce his suspension by three months, which will give him enough time to defend his 2009 world title –which has not been contested since there were no world championships in 2010.
In an interview, Merritt was quoted saying, “I acknowledge that I made a mistake and I appreciate that the Arbitration Panel gave me a chance even after the evidence. They also agreed that I have never taken any substance to gain an advantage on the track,”.