NEW YORK • American sprinter Justin Gatlin could win races at the upcoming World Championships and go undefeated for a second consecutive season but he would still be ineligible for the sport's Athlete of the Year award.
A change in selection criteria makes any athlete who has been sanctioned for a serious doping offence ineligible to be shortlisted for the honour, effective this year, said International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) spokesman Nick Davies .
Gatlin, the fastest man over 100m and 200m this year, was banned for four years after a 2006 positive test for testosterone.
He has returned to the sport and is the favourite to dethrone Jamaican world record holder Usain Bolt in both sprints at the World Championships in Beijing next month.
Davies said the IAAF Council approved the change at a meeting last November on the recommendation of the IAAF Athletes' Commission.
It came after an uproar over Gatlin's inclusion on the top 10 male athletes of the year list last year under existing rules.
The American was not among the three finalists for the honour which was won by French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
Britain's Sebastian Coe, running for the IAAF presidency along with fellow vice-president Sergey Bubka, was among those unhappy about Gatlin's inclusion.
"I think you'd be pretty surprised if I did sit here and was sanguine about that," Coe said last year of Gatlin's inclusion on the top-10 list.
Gatlin, who earlier served a one-year suspension after testing positive in 2001 for an amphetamine contained in attention deficit disorder medication which he had taken since his youth, declined to comment on the criteria change.