By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) - Sprinter Justin Gatlin's trainer will remain as U.S. relay coach for the Rio Olympics after officials decided to delay implementing a new policy for the job, USA Track & Field (USATF) said on Monday.
Dennis Mitchell had told Reuters in February he stepped down from the position after USATF added a provision that prohibits a person from being the national relay coach if they coach someone with a high likelihood of being part of the relay pool.
Gatlin, the world silver medalist at both 100 and 200 meters, is expected to be a key member of the U.S. men's 4x100m relay team at the Aug. 5-21 Rio Games.
Mitchell, who served a doping ban in 1999, never submitted an official resignation, however, and USATF's high performance executive committee decided in March to delay the effective date of the change, USATF said on Monday.
"Because Dennis Mitchell was selected as national relay coach and approved by the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee) under procedures that were put in place on September 10, 2014, any new provisions for the national relay coach policy, if enacted, will take effect late 2016," USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer said in a statement to Reuters.
"As a result of the new timeline, Dennis Mitchell will continue to serve as national relay coach through the 2016 Olympic Games, as previously approved by USATF and the USOC."
Mitchell, 50, has been the U.S. relay coach for men and women events since 2014. His hiring had been controversial because of his 1998 positive test for the banned hormone testosterone.
"The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code indicates that when an individual has completed their suspension, they are eligible to re-engage in the sport, whether serving as an athlete, coach or in another role," Geer added.
"USATF follows and supports this concept, which is consistent with the policies of other sports (both professional leagues as well as and Olympic sports), and with the U.S. legal system."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)