RALEIGH, North Carolina, (Reuters) – Disgraced Olympic and world 400 metres champion LaShawn Merritt has been cleared to compete in August’s world championships, USA Track & Field (USATF) said yesterday.
Merritt was granted an exception to USATF team policy so he could claim a wild-card berth in the world championships as the reigning champion.
U.S. team policy requires athletes to compete in its trials, which were held last weekend, to be eligible for world championships but Merritt was unable to because his 21-month doping suspension does not expire until July 27.
“He’ll be ready,” Merritt lawyer Howard Jacobs told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The Virginia native has been working out and “is really looking forward to coming back,” added Jacobs.
USATF’s board granted Merritt his waiver on the recommendation of its chief of sports performance and the chairman of the USATF men’s track and field committee.
His addition will not cost another athlete a spot on the U.S. team.
“That fact, as well as the clear message sent by the AAA (arbitration panel) regarding his intent and conduct, resulted in our recommendation to place him on the roster,” Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, USATF’s Chief of Sports Performance, said in a statement.
Merritt was suspended last October after testing positive in 2009 and 2010 for a banned substance he said was found in a male enhancement product he had taken.
An arbitration panel reduced his suspension from two years to 21 months because it believed Merritt’s use had been inadvertent and he had not intended to gain a competitive advantage.
Still to be determined is whether Merritt can compete in the 2012 London Olympics since an IOC rule bans athletes who have served a doping suspension greater than six months from the next Olympics.
But at the request of the international and U.S. Olympic committees, sport’s highest court will rule on its validity. A decision is expected by late September.
“We are hopeful the decision will be favorable and LaShawn and others that are similarly situation will be able to compete in London,” Jacobs said.