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Gatlin continues comeback with Madrid victory

MADRID (Reuters) - Disgraced 2004 Olympic 100 meters champion Justin Gatlin continued his comeback from a four-year doping ban with victory in Madrid on Saturday.

American Gatlin, the 2005 world champion, ran 10.10 into a headwind at a low-key meeting in the Spanish capital, beating Dwain Chambers of Britain, who also served a ban for doping, into second. Gatlin's compatriot Travis Padgett was third.

"I am just taking things step by step, race by race," Gatlin told reporters trackside, adding that he was fully focused on preparing for the world championships in Daegu, South Korea later this year.

"I went through so many bad things while I was away, down on myself, drinking, all kinds of stuff, but I have stayed focused for my fans and for my family," the 29-year-old said.

"I was brought into the sport at a young age and I wasn't able to explore myself as a man and I think being out (of athletics) for half a decade I was able to grow as a man."

Gatlin returned to competition last year after serving a ban imposed following a positive test for too high a level of the male sex hormone testosterone.

He has consistently denied knowingly using banned substances.

He is unable to compete in major European races as the organization representing Europe's top athletics events meetings has told its members not to invite athletes who they believe bring disrepute to the sport.

Asked whether he was optimistic of being allowed back to top events on the continent, he said he was hearing different things every day.

"Right now if they put me on the moon I am going to race on the moon," he said.

Gatlin's personal best is 9.85, set at the Athens Olympics. A world-record tying 9.77 was nullified in 2006 because of the doping ban, still almost two-tenths of a second off Jamaican Usain Bolt's 2009 world record of 9.58 seconds.

Gatlin said he was confident he could challenge Bolt and other top sprinters.

"I have always been a competitor and I feel like I can go out there and rise to the occasion."

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Dave Thompson)