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Shamed U.S. track star Gatlin wins 100M in first comeback race

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

RAKVERE, Estonia -- Former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin won a 100-meter race in 10.24 seconds Tuesday in his first competition after a four-year doping ban.

The 28-year-old American finished 0.07 seconds ahead of countryman J-Mee Samuels. Rubin Williams, also of the United States, was third in 10.54 at the small Bigbank Kuldliiga meet.

"I felt good, I felt alive," Gatlin told The Associated Press moments after crossing the finish line. "I'm a little disappointed in the time. I run half the race just kind of cycling through it. But I think this a good comeback, to get my feet wet, and I hope going into the next races will be bigger and better."

Gatlin won his qualifying heat Tuesday in 10.34.

Gatlin won gold in the 100 at the 2004 Athens Olympics in 9.85. He won the 100 and 200 at the 2005 world championships in Helsinki, but was banned from the sport after testing positive in April 2006 for excessive testosterone. The ban ended last month.

Gatlin, who is aiming for the 2012 London Olympics, is set to compete again Sunday in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

His coach, Loren Seagrave, said Gatlin was smooth and relaxed, particularly in the heat. He said he still needs to "polish" his speed.

"The first 20 meters weren't characteristic Justin. I think he still has a lot more left," Seagrave said. "The only thing he needs now is opportunities to compete."