EUGENE, Oregon, (Reuters) – Tyson Gay never realised how harmful stress could be until the American sprinter returned from a doping ban last year.
“It was so stressful, my hair started thinning,” Gay told Reuters via phone as he prepared for this week’s U.S. world championships trials in Eugene, Oregon.
The hair is fine now, maybe even a little longer than when Gay became a double world sprint champion in 2007 and set the U.S. 100 metres record two years later.
But there is new tension.
“I haven’t made a world championship team since 2009 so there is a lot of pressure on myself to get back,” said Gay, who was sidelined by injury in 2011 and missed the worlds two years later after a positive test for a banned steroid.
“It would mean the world to me to put on the (team) uniform again.”
The 32-year-old is still undecided as to whether he will attempt to make the team in both the 100 and 200 or just the shorter distance and will make that decision after the 100 metres final on Friday.
“If I do well enough in the 100, I’ll leave well enough alone and not put the extra pounding on my body,” he said of the 200 metres event, which follows the 100.
“But depending on how I do in the 100, we’ll decide if I need to race in the 200.”
Gay last represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics, winning a silver medal with the 4×100 metres relay team and things went downhill from there when he lost the medal after testing positive for a banned substance in 2013.
He controversially received a one-year ban, instead of the usual two, because he co-operated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and made a low-key return to athletics last year.
The doping suspension still weighs on him, but a new environment and new coach have improved his outlook.
The Kentucky-born sprinter has moved to Los Angeles, where he is trained by John Smith, the coach of former world record holder Maurice Greene.
“He has changed my mind-set about harping on the past,” Gay said.
“He tells me to take some of the energy and stress that I had and put it on the track.