Sprinter Justin Gatlin agreed to an eight-year ban from track and field Tuesday, avoiding a lifetime penalty in exchange for his cooperation with doping authorities and because of the "exceptional circumstances" surrounding his first positive drug test.
He will forfeit the world record he tied in May, when he ran the 100 meters in 9.77 seconds.
Gatlin tested positive in April for testosterone or other steroids. In making the agreement with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Gatlin can still appeal to an arbitration panel in the next six months to have the term reduced.
He cannot, however, argue that the test was faulty.
"To his credit, it's recognition that the science is reliable," USADA general counsel Travis Tygart told The Associated Press. "Instead of wasting a bunch of resources attempting to create smoke where there's not any, he's acknowledging the accuracy of the positive test, and in exchange for his agreement to cooperate, we've recognized the nature of his first offense."
The sprinter's first offense came while he was in college and tested positive for banned medicine he was taking to control attention-deficit disorder. He received a two-year ban for that test.
Gatlin has said he didn't know how steroids got into his system this time.
His coach, Trevor Graham, who has been involved with at least a half-dozen athletes who have received drug suspensions, has contended Gatlin tested positive after a vengeful massage therapist used testosterone cream on the runner without his knowledge.
Gatlin's attorney hasn't acknowledged that allegation.
Under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, a second offense calls for a lifetime ban.
At age 24, an eight-year ban would pretty much knock Gatlin out of competition for life. Still, USADA looks at this as a significant compromise — and the arbitration process could bring Gatlin back much sooner than eight years.
"He accepted liability," Tygart said. "He agreed not to raise technical arguments or frivolous defenses. "He has an opportunity to go to a panel of arbitrators and argue exceptional circumstances."