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Usain Bolt ‘in extremely good shape’ on eve of return, reacts to Russia ban

Usain Bolt

BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 27: Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after winning gold in the Men’s 200 metres final during day six of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images for IAAF)

Getty Images for IAAF

Usain Bolt said he’s in “extremely good shape,” better than last year, in fact, one day before his first race in three weeks, since suffering a strained hamstring at the Jamaican Olympic Trials.

Bolt will race a 200m for the first time since Aug. 27 at a Diamond League meet in London on Friday, scheduled for 4:52 p.m. ET. (full start lists here)

“My hamstrings are good. I have no issues right now,” Bolt said. “I’m happy that I didn’t get a really bad setback. ... I was always able to train.”

Bolt did say, however, that he has done one start out of a block in training since the injury, and that it wasn’t as aggressive as it usually is.

“It’s not as bad as last season,” said Bolt, who went six weeks between races last summer due to a leg injury. “I’m happy with the progress I’m making.”

Bolt’s competition on Friday will not be imposing. It includes neither any U.S. Olympians nor top domestic rival Yohan Blake, who swept the 100m and 200m at the Jamaican Olympic Trials for a second straight time.

Bolt visited his usual German doctor for treatment two weeks ago.

“Worked his magic like always,” said Bolt, adding that a back injury that has led to leg problems is getting worse every year. “I’m here to win.”

Bolt stressed that he pulled out of the Jamaican Olympic Trials between the 100m semifinals and final not as a precaution. He was sincerely injured.

“If I had competed, I probably would have tore my hamstring really bad,” said Bolt, who received a medical exemption to compete at his fourth Olympics next month.

Bolt also looked forward to a showdown with American Justin Gatlin in Rio in three weeks. Gatlin entered the 2015 World Championships as a favorite and led the 100m final until tightening up in the final strides. That allowed Bolt to win by .01.

“I think last year Gatlin was just not ready because it was the first time he was actually being chased,” Bolt said Thursday. “He had a tough competitor, which was me, so it was hard for him. ... This year it’s going to be different. I’m in much better shape. I won’t leave it to the last second.”

Bolt spoke about 90 minutes after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Russia’s Olympic track and field ban. He said twice that he had no comment, but did offer his usual stand against doping.

“If you have the proof and you catch somebody, then I definitely feel you should take action,” Bolt said. “The doping situation in track and field is getting really bad. If you feel like you need to make a statement, then thumbs up.

“This will scare a lot of people. It will send a strong message that the sport is serious.”

Bolt said he had not spoken to longtime relay teammate Nesta Carter since it was revealed June 3 that Carter failed a recent retest of a 2008 Olympic doping sample. Carter’s positive could lead to the stripping of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay title from the Beijing Games. Bolt was part of that relay.

“It will be a little bit disappointing, definitely, but as I always said rules are rules,” Bolt said. “What can I do? I can’t do anything about it. ... I’ll be disappointed, but everybody knows ... I’ve shown over the years that I’m the greatest athlete.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect start time for Bolt’s race Friday.

MORE: Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce get Jamaican postage stamps