LaShawn Merritt, gold medalist, fails drug test, faces ban

LaShawn Merritt is pictured with two other runners.

From left: Jeremy Wariner, Chris Brown, LaShawn Merritt. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

LaShawn Merritt, the reigning Olympic champion at 400 meters, has failed a drug test and faces a suspension. Merritt could be hit with a two-year ban from competition by U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF) after testing positive for a steriod he said he ingested unwittingly in an erectile dysfunction drug. The unlikelyhood of a 23-year-old world-class athlete needing a male enhancement product isn’t expected to help his case.

LaShawn Merritt drug test

LaShawn Merritt accepted a “provisional suspension from USATF and announced Thursday that he was withdrawing from competition while he awaits a rulling on his case. His attorney Howard Jacobs said the LaShawn Merritt’s positive drug test detected DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a steroid banned from Olympic sports but readily available legally as a dietary supplement in the U.S.

LaShawn Merritt, falling star

LaShawn Merritt burst onto the international track and field scene at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejing, where he upset race favorite and 2004 gold medalist American Jeremy Warriner in the 400 meters. Merritt also beat Warriner in last summer’s world championships in Berlin. Merritt and Warriner have developed a spirited rivalry that the sport of track and field can ill afford to lose as it competes for attention with more popular sports.

Merritt’s erectile disfunction punchline

LaShawn Merritt’s positive drug test for an erectile disfunction drug and subsequent tearful confession sparked ridicule from track and field officials. In a statement USTAF CEO Doug Logan, who has been trying to clean up the sport after a load of drug scandals in the last decade, said Merritt had brought “shame to himself and his teammates” and become “the object of jokes.”

LaShawn Merritt may lose future pay day

Lashawn Merritt’s positive drug test means he may be joining the list of track and field athletes suspended from competition over the years by USA Track and Field for failing a drug test. Athletes currently under suspension include include 2004 Olympic 100 meter gold medalist and former world record holder Justin Gatlin, whose suspension may end July this year. Gatlin told that his four year suspension has cost him about $5 million in extra cash, performance fees and endorsements.

LaShawn Merritt: read the label

LaShawn Merritt just may need a loan. His prospects for avoiding a suspension don’t look good. USATF anti-doping policies make it clear that athletes are personally accountable for what they ingest, especially when all you have to do is read the label to check for banned substances. A two year suspension would mean the Merritt will miss the 2011 World Championships. If his ban starts soon enough, he could make a comeback for the US Olympic Trials in 2012.

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