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Gatlin blazes to 200m win in 19.57sec


Eugene (United States):  Controversial sprinter Justin Gatlin fired a World Championships warning shot, winning the 200m title at the US athletics championships in a blistering 19.57sec.

“I wanted to come out and make a statement, and that’s what I did,” Gatlin said yesterday after a career-best that improved on the season-leading 19.68 he set on the same Hayward Field track at the Eugene Diamond League meeting in May.

The 33-year-old, who completed a four-year doping ban in 2010, is now the fifth-fastest man of all time in the event, behind Usain Bolt — who holds the world record of 19.19 — Yohan Blake, Michael Johnson and Walter Dix.

With his dominance this season — he also owns the fastest 100m time of the year of 9.74sec — he has set the stage for a scintillating showdown with Bolt in both the 100m and 200m at the August 22-30 World Championships in Beijing.

Gatlin came off the turn well in front and powered home.

“I know I had a great start, attacked coming off the turn and ran a great 150,” said Gatlin, who called it “the most complete technically 200 meter I ever ran.”

His training partner Isiah Young was a distant second in 19.93 with veteran Wallace Spearmon third in 20.10.

Even as he has dominated the sprint world this season, Gatlin has found his past doping transgressions in the spotlight, as has US team-mate Tyson Gay — who booked his Beijing berth with a 100m victory on Saturday.

Current allegations also cast a cloud over these championships, after Alberto Salazar, coach of US distance runner Galen Rupp, was accused in a BBC/ProPublica documentary this month of infractions.

Kara Goucher, one of the athletes who has leveled allegations against Salazar, fanned the flames on Sunday, hitting back at the coach for branding her a liar.

“I stand by my statements,” Goucher said, even as Rupp again voiced support for his coach and their practices.

“I’ve got nothing to hide,” Rupp said after a third-placed finish in the 5,000m won by Ryan Hill. “We believe in clean sport.”

With Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix sitting out, assured of a World Championships wild card, collegiate standout Jenna Prandini won the women’s 200m in 22.20sec. Candyce McGrone was second in 22.38 and Jeneba Tarmoh third 22.44.

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