June 6, 2008 / 11:33 PM / 11 years ago

Gatlin says his running career is not over

EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Olympic 100 meters champion Justin Gatlin said on Friday his running career was not over even though he has lost his appeal against a four-year doping ban.

“I will definitely be back on the track,” Gatlin, 26, told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in Pensacola, Florida. “I have plans for the next two years but I will be back running.”

A Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel upheld Gatlin’s doping ban for a 2006 positive test earlier on Friday.

The decision means he will not be eligible to compete until July 2010 unless he finds other legal recourse.

“You have people who are out there age 30-plus still competing on the grand stage,” Gatlin said.

“If I keep in shape, keep to a certain speed and turn it up when I need to, I think I will be able to get out there and run what I need to run.”

Pursuing a career in the National Football League was also a strong possibility, he said without elaborating.

The 2005 world champion said he wanted his legal team to continue to seek ways for him to return to the track before 2010.

“I am fighting because of my innocence” he said. “I am fighting because I am a victim. I am not a doper.

“If I am given an opportunity to fight for my freedom, then I am going to fight for it.”

The CAS decision left him “very torn and very upset,” he said.

“My heart skipped a beat,” he said when told of the decision by his lawyer. “But I have been going through this for 2-1/2 years, so what more surprise or shock can I go through?

“I’ve just got to pull myself together and hold my head up high. The world has not seen the last of Justin Gatlin.”

Editing by John Mehaffey

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