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Justin Gatlin reflects on career in ‘Rise Again’ documentary

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The heaving, uncontrollable sobs have occurred twice for Justin Gatlin. Once, for a failed drug test in his prime that led to a stay in track’s version of purgatory. The other, over a .01-second slipup that he’ll never get over.

Say this much for the controversial sprinter: His life has certainly been filled with peaks and valleys, which he reveals in an hour-long documentary titled “Rise Again — The Justin Gatlin Story.”

Gatlin reflects on his ascent to the top, a fall from grace after a 2006 doping ban that left him so depressed he contemplated wrapping his car around a tree and a return to the spotlight to become Usain Bolt‘s biggest adversary. Not to mention a race Gatlin would give anything to have back — the 100m at world championships in 2015, when he leaned too soon and Bolt beat him by .01 seconds.

“Life is fun. And it’s beautiful. But it’s cold. Cutthroat. Nasty,” Gatlin said in the opening sequence of a movie produced by Andrew Brereton and screened Thursday in Gatlin’s hometown of Pensacola, Florida. “I’ve witnessed both.”

Gatlin’s purpose in making the film was simple: Show fans and detractors what makes him tick.

“It’s a window into that kind of realm that no one has ever seen,” the 35-year-old Gatlin said in a phone interview. “A way for me to get that rawness out there.”

Following two gold medals at the 2005 world championships, Gatlin tested positive for excessive testosterone at the Kansas Relays in 2006. His dad signed for the certified letter from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and called his son.

The father simply comforted him.

After a long stretch of arbitration and court hearings, Gatlin received an eight-year ban that was later reduced to four.

During his exile, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion went through a wide range of emotions, including thoughts of suicide. He struggled to find work (he tried out for several NFL teams). He collected unemployment. His weight even ballooned so much that when he did return, he was kiddingly called “Dough Boy.”

“At the top, I was flying high. I didn’t understand what it meant to be down and out,” Gatlin said in the film. “What I went through in those four years, it makes me, in a way, a poster child. I’ve been to the top, to eat filet mignon, to have sweets, traveling around the world, having everything at your fingertips, to being embarrassed just to walk around in society.”

That’s exactly the emotion Brereton wanted to capture.

Brereton and his company, Neomotion Films, traveled around with Gatlin, shooting more than 80 hours of footage. The crew interviewed Gatlin’s parents, a string of coaches from over the years, agent/renown hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, friends and family members.

The film producer was initially drawn to Gatlin’s story because usually when convicted dopers serve a lengthy ban, they don’t come back. If they do, they’re rarely faster than what they were. Before his ban, Gatlin tied a then 100m world record of 9.77 seconds, a run that came weeks after his positive test and has since been erased.

In 2015, Gatlin went 9.74.

“That throws a bigger monkey wrench into the situation, because people don’t know how to react,” Brereton said. “Their first reaction is like, ‘OK, something’s not right. He already has the history. I don’t believe it.’ But I always say, ‘Why don’t you believe?’

“They say, ‘Because it’s never been done before.’ I say, ‘So that means it can’t be done?’ … Track is interesting like that.”

Some of the movie’s intriguing scenes:

— As a kid, Gatlin used to outrace his friends — him on foot, them on bikes.

— His first love was hurdles in high school. He was so fast that one time in a 300m hurdles race, he opened up a big lead, saw a teammate fall down, went back to help him up and still went on to win the competition.

— Gatlin talked to kids all over the country about anti-doping on his return to track from his ban. “Some say he didn’t apologize?” Nehemiah said. “That was his apology tour — to all these kids that looked up to him.”

— At the starting line in races after returning from his ban, Gatlin said: “People saw me, and the look in their eyes was like they saw a ghost.”

The race that haunts him is that 100 showdown with Bolt in ’15. Gatlin thought that was his moment in Beijing, his race to win.

It wasn’t. He broke into tears on the ride back to his hotel.

“I could’ve run that race, that sloppy race, anywhere else in the world and still won,” said Gatlin, who captured Olympic bronze at the 2012 London Games and silver four years later in Rio de Janeiro. “I allowed myself to get beat and I beat myself. That’s the worst feeling in the world.”

Throughout the movie, Gatlin kept his composure. This, though, brought him to tears: Talking about his young son.

“In kindergarten, he’s drawing pictures of me on top of podiums, with medals on,” Gatlin said. “He loves me for me. He’s so proud of me. … It’s way better than being on top of 100 podiums.

“Way better.”

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Lance Armstrong lawyers want Greg LeMond, Betsy Andreu excluded from trial

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong’s $100 million fraud trial is months away, yet his fight with the government and former teammate-turned-rival Floyd Landis is heating up.

Armstrong, who was stripped of his 2000 Olympic bronze medal and seven Tour de France titles for doping, wants to bar potential testimony and evidence from some of his most dogged critics.

That includes the blistering U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that led to his downfall and former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who now stands as the only American to have officially won the race.

Landis, who tipped investigators to Armstrong’s cheating back in 2010, wants to prevent Armstrong from telling jurors about his own doping history and motivation to file a lawsuit that could put more than $20 million in his pocket.

Trial is scheduled for November in federal court in Washington, and lawyers for both sides recently filed a series of motions asking U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper to exclude some key evidence.

Landis initially sued Armstrong in 2010, alleging Armstrong violated the cycling team’s U.S. Postal Service contract by using performance-enhancing drugs. The government joined in 2013 after Armstrong admitted using steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs and techniques to win the Tour de France seven times and become the world’s dominant bicycle racer from 1999-2005. The government wants to recover more than $30 million the Postal Service paid to sponsor Armstrong’s team and will seek triple damages.

Armstrong’s cheating was exposed and detailed in a 2012 U.S Anti-Doping Agency report that included sworn testimony from several of his former teammates. He was stripped of his Tour de France victories, banned from competition and has paid an estimated $20 million to settle various lawsuits.

Armstrong’s lawyers now call the USADA report “inadmissible hearsay” for the federal case and say it was written to satisfy the motives of an agency out to get him. They notably object to the report’s summation that Armstrong led the most “most sophisticated” doping program in sports history.

Even if the report is blocked, Armstrong has admitted and provided sworn testimony about his performance-enhancing drug use.

Armstrong also wants to block testimony from Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu. She was one of the first to provide sworn testimony about Armstrong’s drug use in a 2005 lawsuit, and has been a prominent critic of Armstrong’s past efforts to intimidate anyone who raised the specter of his doping. Armstrong’s lawyers call her a publicity seeker who blames Armstrong for her husband not having a better career.

Betsy Andreu said she hasn’t done TV interviews about Armstrong since 2013 and turned down a book deal.

“It’s been well established that Lance will stop at nothing to discredit my husband and me because of our uncompromising integrity,” she told The Associated Press. “Lance tried to shut me up by bullying me to the point of breaking me. He didn’t succeed then, he will not succeed now.”

LeMond’s presence at trial could be explosive as he has clashed fiercely with both Armstrong and Landis in the past. Armstrong’s lawyers want him out.

“While LeMond is well-versed in the prevalence of doping throughout the sport during the relevant time period (1997-2004) and still owns the record for the fastest time trial in Tour de France history, he has no personal knowledge regarding Armstrong, the USPS sponsorship agreement, or invoices submitted for sponsorship payments,” Armstrong’s lawyers wrote.

Kathy LeMond told the AP her husband has intimate knowledge of Postal Service contracting in the mid-1990s and the expectation by the government that teams were expected to be clean. LeMond was retired when the same group that organized Armstrong’s team first approached him about having a role in a Postal Service team, then froze him out, she said.

“They asked him to use his name to try to get a U.S.-based team,” Kathy LeMond said. “We have those documents … We gave it all to the Justice Department.”

The government wants the judge to block some of Armstrong’s evidence as well, including two reports commissioned by the Postal Service during the team sponsorship. Those reports claim the sponsorship was worth more than $100 million in global exposure, leading Armstrong to claim he owes the government nothing. The government argues those reports should be disallowed as “hearsay” that lack expert testimony to support them.

The government also wants to prevent him from attacking Landis’ character and motivation. Landis’ 2006 Tour de France victory was stripped after he was caught using synthetic testosterone. He initially claimed innocence and asked the public to finance his defense. Landis was later prosecuted for fraud and paid back more than $475,000.

As the whistleblower against Armstrong, Landis stands to pocket up to 25 percent of any damages awarded.

“Armstrong should not be allowed to deflect the jury’s attention from his own misdeeds by putting Landis on trial and introducing evidence to cast him in a bad light,” the government wrote.

Dallas attorney Matthew Orwig, a former federal prosecutor, said whistleblowers are “rarely totally pure” and attacking their character is a common legal tactic.

Even though Landis filed the initial lawsuit, the government has said it doesn’t plan to call him as a witness. The government should consider presenting Landis’ background instead of letting Armstrong do it, Orwig said.

“Let them hear it from you instead of the other side,” Orwig said. “It seems to inevitably come out.”

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South Korea president calls for North Korea at PyeongChang Olympics

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea President Moon Jae-in said Saturday he hopes to see North Korean athletes at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea to ease tensions over the North’s nuclear program.

Moon made the comments during the opening ceremony of the world taekwondo championships in the South Korean town of Muju, where a North Korean delegation led by International Olympic Committee member Chang Ung was also present.

The championships, which will feature a performance by the North Korean taekwondo demonstration team, mark the first sports exchange between the Koreas since the liberal Moon took office in May.

Moon has expressed a desire to use the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics to reach out to North Korea, with relations between the two at their lowest point in decades. During his stay in the South, Chang is expected to meet South Korean officials to discuss cooperation at the Winter Olympics.

“If North Korean athletes participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics, I think it would greatly contribute in realizing Olympic values, which are about bringing humanity together and promoting world peace,” said Moon.

He recalled key moments in sports diplomacy between the Koreas, including when they sent unified teams to the world table tennis and youth soccer championships in 1991, and their athletes marching together during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Participation in Pyeongchang could “provide a turning point for the reconciliation between the South and North,” Moon said. “I sincerely ask the IOC and (IOC member) Chang who are here with us today for their strong consideration and cooperation.”

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