Olympic and world 400m champion LaShawn Merritt has accepted a provisional suspension after testing positive for a banned drug, his lawyer reportedly said.

According to Thursday’s release from lawyer Howard Jacobs, the American used an over-the-counter male enhancement product that contained substances that caused him to fail three successive tests between October and January.

Merritt, who defeated fellow countryman Jeremy Wariner on his way to winning the world title last summer, says he hopes his family, friends and sponsors will forgive him for making “a foolish, immature and egotistical mistake.”

He said: “As an athlete, and strong advocate of fair competition; I have worked very hard to push myself to the outer limits of my physical abilities without any performance enhancement drugs. I’ve always prided myself on doing what’s right, and will continue to do so.

“To know that I’ve tested positive as a result of product that I used for personal reasons is extremely difficult to wrap my hands around. I hope my sponsors, family, friends and the sport itself will forgive me for making such a foolish, immature and egotistical mistake. Any penalty that I may receive for my action will not overshadow the embarrassment and humiliation that I feel inside.

“I am deeply sorry and hope that other athletes who take these types of over the counter products will be even more cautious and read the fine print, because if it can happen to me, it could happen to you.”

The 400-meter runner will not compete until the case has been decided.

USA Track & Field CEO Doug Logan says he is “disgusted by this entire episode,” thinks Merritt “put his entire career under a cloud” and his explanation “brings shame to himself and his teammates.”

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