By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
There will be no Olympics this year for sprinter Justin Gatlin.
His appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on doping charges was rejected Friday, three weeks before the United States holds its track trials.
The three-man CAS panel upheld the four-year ban given to the 26-year-old sprinter earlier this year by another arbitration panel.
Gatlin, whose ban won't expire until July 25, 2010, had hoped to have it reduced to two years, giving him a chance to defend his 100-meter Olympic title.
"I will continue to fight for my right to participate in the great sport of track and field in a time frame shorter than four years," Gatlin said in a statement.
The initial arbitration panel that reduced Gatlin's possible eight-year ban to four years essentially had offered up a blueprint for how Gatlin might conduct the appeal - eliminating his first doping offense in 2001 - but the CAS arbitrators didn't agree.
In their briefly worded decision, to be fleshed out later, the panel said the bulk of the original panel's decision was upheld.
The only key difference was when the start of Gatlin's four-year penalty would begin; CAS delayed the start from May to July 2006, because that was when he voluntarily accepted his provisional suspension.
In his statement, Gatlin said he was pleased CAS didn't go the other direction and increase the ban, which is what the sport's governing body (IAAF) wanted. But he also said he was disappointed and keeping his legal options open.
"I have never been involved in any intentional doping scheme," Gatlin said. "And I think that CAS would not have rejected IAAF's position unless it also believed that I had not participated in any intentional doping."
Gatlin's hearing was held last week, and the decision was expedited because of the upcoming Olympic trials.
Though the timing of the decision was quick, the ruling wasn't what Gatlin needed.
It means he must decide whether to continue his running career through the 2012 Games or possibly look into football. He's had workouts with a handful of NFL teams.
"USA Track and Field respects the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport regarding Justin Gatlin's eligibility,"
USATF president Bill Roe said. "This case has been complex and nuanced, and we are glad that it has come to a final resolution." Gatlin, who once held himself up as a role model for clean competition, has said he doesn't know how steroids got into his system before an April 2006 test, when he tested positive for excessive testosterone.
A second positive test usually prompts a lifetime ban. But because of the special circumstances behind Gatlin's first positive test - he was taking medicine to treat attention-deficit disorder - he reached an agreement with USADA that called for a maximum eight-year ban.
In January, the initial arbitration panel reduced that to four years. USADA general counsel Bill Bock said then that arbitrators acknowledged the help Gatlin provided to federal authorities "in investigating doping in sport."
Gatlin hoped CAS would reduce the ban one more time, arguing the 2001 doping violation should be rescinded.
Gatlin was suspended from international competition for two years, but the sport's governing body reinstated him after one year. Even so, the International Association of Athletics Federations has pushed for Gatlin to be banned for life.
Friday's ruling also means Gatlin will have no immediate chance to regain his world record in the 100 meters. He once shared the record of 9.77 seconds with Jamaica's Asafa Powell, who improved it, finishing in 9.74 seconds last September. But Jamaica's Usain Bolt is the man to beat now, setting a new record of 9.72 on May 31 in New York City.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)