<<Los Angeles, CA (October 18, 2010) - The American Arbitration Association on Friday reduced the suspension of 400-meter gold medalist LaShawn Merritt; LaShawn Merritt will be eligible to return to competition on July 27, 2011, making him eligible to defend his title at the 2011 World Championships.
In reducing the suspension, the AAA Panel accepted LaShawn Merritt’s explanation for the positive test that he issued in April 2010, and commended Mr. Merritt for coming forward with the cause of his inadvertent positive test as soon as he discovered it. The AAA Panel also noted the following:
-LaShawn Merritt had no intention to dope, no intention to gain a competitive advantage, and in fact gained no competitive advantage from his inadvertent use of the Extenze product; and
-LaShawn Merritt’s conduct “was exemplary and demonstrated tremendous character in making what had to be a painful and humiliating confession.”
The AAA Panel also specifically ruled that after his suspension ends on July 27, 2011, LaShawn Merritt is eligible to compete in all competitions of the USOC, IAAF and IOC; meaning that LaShawn Merritt is eligible to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games (where he is the defending Olympic champion).
LaShawn Merritt issued this statement:
“While I acknowledge that I made a mistake, I appreciate that the Arbitration Panel listened to all of the evidence, and agreed that I have never taken any substance to gain an advantage on the track. I have learned from my mistake, and would caution all athletes to be very careful about anything that they take, no matter where they buy it, and carefully read the label of any product, even in the off-season. I look forward to returning to competition as soon as possible and proving that my prior successes, including at the Olympic Games, were achieved honestly and fairly. I also need to thank my family, fans and sponsors who have supported me through this difficult process.”>>
T&FN notes that in the past USATF has always required World Championships team members (even those with IAAF "wild cards" like Merritt posseses) to compete at the Nationals. Since the 2011 USATF meet predates the end of the suspension, some change in the normal procedure will be required if he is to be in Daegu.