BETRAYED: Richards-Ross (left) was upset when Gatlin tested positive of a performance enhancing drug
WORLD AND Olympic gold medallist Sanya Richards-Ross says that she has forgiven American team-mate Justin Gatlin, who returned to athletics last year after serving a four-year drug ban.
In 2006 Gatlin tested positive for testosterone and was given a four-year ban having previously tested positive for amphetamines in 2001. Instead of receiving a lifetime ban the 29-year-old was suspended for four years due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding his first ban and because of his cooperation with the doping authorities.
At last months US trials Gatlin finished third in the 100m and therefore qualified for the world championships in Daegu, South Korea in August.
Although 400m runner Richards-Ross, 26, granted Gatlin a pardon, she admits that her close friend has damaged the sport.
Richards-Ross told BBC Radio 5 live:
"Even though I have forgiven him, I do think his actions affected us in a negative way.
“It really broke my heart when he was banned from the sport."
Gatlin’s 2004 Olympic and 2005 world championship gold medals are now shrouded in controversy because of his doping violations but Richards-Ross admired Gatlin’s perseverance to make a successful comeback and felt that the length of his ban was justified.
“For somebody like Justin Gatlin, who has served four years and has stayed in it and is now running, it's inspirational to see someone do that,” said Richards-Ross.
"I did feel betrayed when he got caught, but he did his time - and I'm now proud to see what he's doing.
"I think four years is adequate enough punishment for most athletes who test positive. The chance of them cheating again goes to zero because they would never want to go through that embarrassment again of missing seasons."