For nearly 19 months, American long jumper and sprinter Jarrion Lawson went to practice each day not knowing when he would compete again as he appealed a lengthy ban after eating what he maintained was contaminated meat.
Effective immediately, the 25-year-old with Olympic aspirations has been cleared to return.
Paul Doyle, the agent for Lawson, told The Associated Press he was notified by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday that Lawson was exonerated of the doping offense. The details of the decision are expected to be released next week, Doyle said.
Doyle added that Lawson was awarded around $10,000 to help offset his legal fees.
After hearing the news he was eligible to race again, Lawson’s first response was this: What time is practice?
“I’ve been training for 19 months,” Lawson said in a phone interview. “I’m excited to show the world what I’ve been doing.”
The last time Lawson competed was July 22, 2018, at a Diamond League meet in London, where he finished third in the long jump.
Doyle said Lawson ate what they believe to be tainted beef at a Japanese restaurant in Arkansas before a drug test on June 2, 2018. Lawson was notified on Aug. 3 that he tested positive for a metabolite of the banned anabolic steroid trenbolone. The substance is frequently used in the U.S. to promote the growth of beef cattle. It also formed part of a steroid mixture used by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Ever since, Lawson has been trying to clear his name.
Lawson had a credit-card receipt from the restaurant on the day he purchased a beef bowl. However, being notified two months later of a positive test made it difficult to obtain samples of the meat. Doyle said they had the beef supplier’s information and that the company did use trenbolone.
The low point for Lawson was last spring, when the Athletics Integrity Unit rejected his appeal and he was staring at a four-year ban.
“That hit me hard,” said Lawson. “I got to a place where there was nothing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to practice. It was hard to eat. But I just re-tuned myself and told myself I was going to control what I could control and stay dedicated.”
Lawson & Co. took their case to CAS and had a hearing Nov. 21.
Lawson was sleeping Friday morning when he received a call from his coach, Travis Geopfert.
On the line was Geopfert, Doyle, Global Sports Advocates attorney Paul Greene and Lawson’s parents.
“My lawyer just said, ‘I’m going to keep it simple: We won,'” Lawson said. “I was in shock mode. I didn’t know how to feel.”
In a statement, Lawson later added his frustration: “Through this process I have uncovered some major flaws in the doping control process and some unethical people within the system. I intend to pursue recourse for self-redemption, but also, and more importantly, so that this never happens to a clean athlete ever again.”
Doyle expects Lawson’s shoe sponsor, Asics, to come back on board and for meet directors to allow him into competitions given the no-fault ruling.
This was a decision Doyle thought would be reached long ago.
“Once we were first notified, to us, it was so blatantly obvious that this was a meat contamination situation,” Doyle said. “It’s amazing all that’s happened between then and now. Ultimately, this ended up how we thought it would. Any rational, logical person would’ve thought the same thing.”
These days, Lawson rarely eats beef, only chicken. He’s leaner than before. He’s ready to be a factor at the U.S. Olympic trials in June and, if things go right, at the Tokyo Games.
That’s why he’s been training sometimes twice a day in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Lawson’s been a rising standout since he burst on the scene a few years ago. During his last season at the University of Arkansas in 2016, Lawson became the first man since Jesse Owens in 1936 to win the 100, 200 and long jump at the same NCAA championships. That summer, Lawson nearly captured Olympic gold in the long jump, but missed out on the top spot when he grazed the sand with his fingers just before landing. He finished fourth.
In 2017, he took second at the world championships.
He played it coy when asked what sort of times he’s running at practice these days.
“Just say I’m running fast,” he said. “I’ll save it for the Olympics.”
And how far is he jumping?
“I’ll give you this: I’m in the best shape of my life,” Lawson said.