Justin Gatlin said Friday he has "no idea how any banned substance got into my body," and he restated his plan to appeal the eight-year ban from track he received earlier this week after acknowledging he tested positive for doping.
In a statement released through his publicists, the Olympic and world champion in the 100 meters reiterated his disdain for cheating in a sport that has been wracked with doping issues.
"Cheating, in any form, is completely contrary to who I am as an athlete and a person," said Gatlin, who has long positioned himself as a champion of drug-free competition in track. "I will continue to cooperate with USADA and with their efforts to get to the bottom of this situation."
But, he said he still fully intended to file for arbitration, in hopes of reducing the eight-year ban he received from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
"I expect when that process is concluded that this entire matter will be resolved favorably," he said.
Gatlin has six months to appeal to an American arbitration panel. After that, he can take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
On Tuesday, Gatlin and USADA reached an agreement that scaled back his penalty from a lifetime ban to a maximum of eight years in exchange for Gatlin's help in other doping investigations -- presumably one involving his coach, Trevor Graham.
The agreement also acknowledged that Gatlin's first positive test, five years ago, was an honest mistake -- the result of his taking medicine to treat attention-deficit disorder.
In exchange, Gatlin agreed not to argue the validity of the latest positive tests, which found testosterone or other steroids in his system after an April race. He retained his right -- as all athletes do -- to appeal the case to arbitrators in hopes of a reduced sentence.
Gatlin's attorney, Cameron Myler, would not confirm that she will argue Graham's claim -- that Gatlin was sabotaged by a vengeful massage therapist who rubbed steroid cream into his skin. On Tuesday, Myler said she wasn't prepared to offer her strategy for the arbitration. She did not return messages left by The Associated Press on Friday. USADA chief executive officer Terry Madden declined to comment.
With the Olympics less than two years away, the clock is ticking fast for Gatlin. Even if his suspension were reduced significantly -- say to two years -- he would miss the Olympic trials in June 2008.
"We're shooting for something way less than two years," Myler said earlier in the week. "The goal is to have him back on the track as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, also Friday, Nike terminated its contract with Graham and suspended its contract with Gatlin until further notice.
"He will not receive payment while the contract is suspended, and there is no specific date or speculation as to when we would re-up that," said Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer, who would not disclose details of the contracts.
Graham's attorney said Nike's move was made without just cause.
"The contract cannot be terminated based upon innuendo and suspicion," attorney Joe Zeszotarski said. "We have contacted Nike regarding this matter, and we are awaiting their response. We hope to avoid having to take legal action but will do so if necessary."
Gatlin remains convinced all this will blow over.
"As an athlete it is frustrating for me to be on the sidelines, and have people drawing conclusions that I have cheated," he said. "I have put my faith in a system that I believe will clear my name and that I believe will allow me to compete again."