LONDON -- Reigning Olympic 400-meter champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States will not be defending his title after he pulled up with a hamstring injury Saturday in a preliminary heat.
Merritt got off to a slow start, fell behind and then stopped running after about 200 meters. He slowly limped off the track, ending what has been a tumultuous four years for the American runner.
The gold medal favorite in this event as well as a key component to the American's 4X400 relay team, Merritt had been dealing with an ailing left hamstring entering the Games. But it was an effort just to be allowed to compete. Merritt served a 21-month drug suspension and needed a special ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to become eligible.
Merritt had tested positive three times for steroid derivatives known as DHEA and pregnenolone. But Merritt contended that the substances had been contained in an over-the-counter male-enhancement product.
"I'm not a doper," Merritt told the Bay Area New Group recently. "I simply made a mistake."
But now the London Games could be over for Merritt.
"Obviously this is the Olympic Games, so you're going to do all of the things to get healthy," Merritt said. "It is feeling a lot better, a whole lot better. I feel like the strength is there. But when I really went for it, I could feel it. I still have some more time before the relay comes up, but if I go out and really hit it and practice and I