LONDON – Not so fast, Justin.
American sprinter Justin Gatlin thought he broke the 100-meter world record last Friday at the Qatar Grand Prix in Doha, earning the title of world's fastest man.
It turns out he only equaled the record, and will have to share it with Jamaican rival Asafa Powell.
A timing error prompted the sport's governing body Wednesday to take away Gatlin's announced record of 9.76 seconds. The International Association of Athletics Federations said his time was recorded at 9.766, and should have been manually rounded up to 9.77.
Gatlin's time has now been adjusted to 9.77 and, pending ratification, will equal the record set by Powell in Athens, Greece, on June 14, 2005.
The IAAF said it acted after being informed of the error by Tissot Timing.
"The IAAF rounding rule, to be initiated manually on the timing system, had not been activated as instructed," Tissot said in a statement from its Swiss headquarters. "Tissot Timing regrets the occurrence and apologizes for this unique incident."
The IAAF uses times recorded to one-hundredth of a second, with figures always rounded up.
"We're very disappointed for Justin but we think he's got all the talent to get the record again soon," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "It's better to have an honest result."
Davies said it's believed to be the first time a world record has been taken away days later because of a timing adjustment. Gatlin's agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, said, "It's an embarrassment to our sport that something of this magnitude could be blown like that.
"Justin's a trouper, he's a sportsman," Nehemiah said. "He recognizes all he can do is run, and that's what he did. He ran to the best of his ability."
The 24-year-old Gatlin, who is the reigning Olympic and world champion in the 100, received wide acclaim after being credited with breaking the most celebrated record in track and field.
"This was a perfect race," Gatlin said then. "I am a competitor and I promised I would get the world record and I have done it. ... Now I can say I'm the fastest in the world, and it feels great."
Gatlin and Powell are scheduled to face each other for the first time this year at the Gateshead meet in England on June 11.
The IAAF learned of the error Tuesday after Tissot reviewed the times from Qatar. Under IAAF procedures, formal ratification of a world record can take months. Meet organizers have to submit the officials results, photo finish, doping control forms and other data to the IAAF for checking.
"If Tissot hadn't announced it, we would have caught it eventually," Davies said.
Davies said IAAF rules specify that times must be to the hundredth of a second, adding that timing equipment wasn't yet sophisticated enough to accurately measure to the thousandth of a second. Wind speeds and weather and track conditions also come into play.
"You could never compare times to the thousandths due to all the conditions," Davies said. "The rule is clear. We are sticking to hundredths."
Davies said IAAF experts had checked and found that Powell was also measured at "9.76-something" when he set the record.
"It's 9.77," he said. "We are convinced that both ran around the same time."
When Powell set the record last year, he bettered the mark of 9.79 set by Maurice Greene in Athens in June 1999. Tim Montgomery's mark of 9.78, set in Paris in 2002, was wiped off the books when he was suspended for two years based on information uncovered in the BALCO doping scandal.
Gatlin's previous best was the 9.85 he ran in winning the Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. His time was 9.88 when he won the world title last year in Helsinki, Finland. He also won the world 200 title.
"Justin still takes some solace in being the co-record holder," Nehemiah said. "This will just motivate him and inspire him."