Rome - American Justin Gatlin snatched the track record held by sprint rival Usain Bolt as he cruised to victory in the men's 100 metres at the Rome Diamond League meet on Thursday.
Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion who served a four-year doping ban in 2006-2010 for using testosterone, stopped the clock at 9.75, the 11th-fastest time in history at the distance.
It was just one hundredth faster than the time of 9.76 set by Bolt, in Gatlin's absence, on his way to victory in the Italian capital in 2012.
Bolt, the Olympic champion and world record holder in 9.58, has made only appearance in Europe this season, winning a 200m in the Czech Republic last month.
But with both sprinters avoiding each other so far in the build-up to the world athletics championships in Beijing in August, it is only a matter of time before they duel.
Gatlin admitted if he had to switch roles with Bolt right now, he would be "enthused" by the performances he is setting.
"If the roles were switched... I'd be more enthused by such a great competitor coming up and making me want to be sharper again," he said.
It is the second time Gatlin has run under 9.80 in just over a week, after storming his way to a personal best of 9.74 in Doha last week.
That performance raised eyebrows among his detractors, but Gatlin says he has nothing to prove.
"I have nothing to prove to anybody, really," he said.
"I just come out and just want to run. Good or bad, whatever is written about me, positive or negative, I wake up, get to the track and get ready to run."
While Gatlin is showing Bolt - the Jamaican sprinter and showman popularly known as the "fastest man on earth" - he means business, his performances, and his progress this season, have raised eyebrows.
British distance runner Paula Radcliffe notably hit out when American sportswear giant Nike, who ended their sponsorship of Gatlin in 2006, handed him a new deal on the back of last month's performance in Qatar.
"I am very disappointed to hear this news," Radcliffe wrote in a Twitter message.
Gatlin added: "I think people are more flustered, should I say, that I'm running fast, not that I'm back. I was back four years ago, literally, in 2010.
"So I don't understand what the situation is. I'm running fast again, I got my feet back under me, my confidence back. I feel really good to come out and compete here against these guys. I know who I am again and I feel great about it."
France's Jimmy Vicaut was second in a season's best of 9.98, a time matched by American Michael Rodgers who tied for second place.
The rest of the field, including Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis, finished outside the 10-second mark.