DAEGU, South Korea -- Blistered and scarred, American sprinter Justin Gatlin arrived at the world championships with frostbite on both feet.
The 2004 Olympic champion, who last year made his return to competition after serving a four-year doping ban, said Wednesday he got frostbite about two weeks ago after going into a cryogenic chamber with wet socks. He didn't lose any toes and still will run in Daegu, but his wounds are not completely healed.
"You wake up at 9 o'clock in the morning in Orlando and it's already 90 degrees," said the 29-year-old Gatlin, who lives and trains in Florida. "So we're already hot, drenched with sweat. Get in the booth, socks were wet, socks froze to me instantly.
"Before I even came here it was like walking on fiery pins and needles," Gatlin added in an interview with The Associated Press.
Athletes use cryogenic chambers to cool their muscles after a hard workout. Instead of ice packs, the chamber works faster and covers the entire body.
Gatlin is using the setback as inspiration heading into a possible showdown with world-record holder Usain Bolt in the 100 meters.
"Honestly, it's just the universe telling me, 'How much do you really want this? If you really want this, then I'm going to put these obstacles in your way and see how man enough you're going to be to overcome them,' " he said.
Gatlin said the pain from the frostbite had subsided and the injury hadn't affected his stride. But it is still bothersome because the wounds on his heels are near the level where his socks sit and where the back of his running spikes touch.
"It's better than it was. It was all pussed up and blistered. It bubbled up and it stayed bubbled up for a good four or five days," Gatlin said, lifting up his sweat pants to reveal the scabby scars that resemble big blisters. "This is the best it's looked, the best it's felt.
"The confidence in me is rising. I'm getting ready to get out there and burn the track."
Asafa Powell has the fastest time this year at 9.78. Bolt holds the world record at 9.58 but hasn't been at his best since suffering a back injury last year. Gatlin ran 9.95 to finish second at the U.S. championships.
Before Bolt first broke the 100-meter world record in 2008, the sprint world was all about Gatlin and Powell. Gatlin won Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
At the world championships in Helsinki a year later, he won both the 100 and 200. And in 2007, he equaled the then-world record of 9.77 seconds set by Powell.
Gatlin maintains his positive doping test from 2006 was the result of some testosterone-like cream that was massaged into his legs. His first chance to get back on top will start Saturday in Daegu in the 100-meter heats. The final is set for Sunday.
"I wouldn't say (Bolt) is a goal. He's more of a competition standard," Gatlin said. "He has a lot to lose, while everyone else has a lot to gain.
"I have the visual of running him to the line."