Andre Cason of the United States stepped into the Ben Johnson-Linford Christie feud and won the gold medal in the men's 60 meters at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships Friday.

The American was clocked in 6.54 seconds, edging Christie at the tape. The British sprinter was timed in 6.55. Chidi Imoh of Nigeria was third in 6.60 and Johnson fourth in 6.61.Cason took a commanding lead middway through the final and he stayed ahead despite Christie's strong comeback in the final strides.

Cason had the fastest times in both the heats and semifinals, and proved to be the fastest and most consistent in the field.

Irina Sergeyeva of the Soviet Union beat heavy favorite Merlene Ottey of Jamaica to win the women's 60 meters in 7.02 seconds. The Soviet sprinter ended Ottey's string of wins at 73 over the past year and a half.

Ottey was timed in 7.08 and Liliana Allen of Cuba was third in 7.12. Sergeyeva's time equalled the third fastest ever for the distance.

Werner Guenthoer of Switzerland won the third gold medal of the day taking the men's shotput with a toss of 69 feet, 51/2 inches.

Johnson said he ran a good semifinal but he had nothing left in the final.

"There was just no power. I am pleased considering what I have had to go through in these two years, but I'll get my power back later in the season and things will work out as I figure," the Canadian sprinter said.

It was Johnson's first final in an international competition after his comeback from a two-year drug-related suspension. He appeared in trouble with his start in the heats and ran an unusual semifinal by slowing down and looking as Christie and Imoh went passed him.

Christie, the Olympic silver medalist, won the semifinal in 6.56 seconds, with Chidi Imoh of Nigeria second with 6.60 and Johnson third in 6.63.

All three qualified for the final.

"I felt good. I had a very good start," Johnson said after the semifinal.

Johnson nearly stumbled and fell in his morning heat after a poor start. He was off to a good start in the semifinal and led for over 50 meters.

In the heat, Johnson was in trouble from the very start, and after he nearly fell, he finished in a poor 6.75. He said he slipped when coming out of the blocks but it appeared as if he had his timing wrong in trying for a push with little strength.

Again in the semifinals, the fastest time in the field was clocked by Cason with 6.55. Cason had 6.52 in the heats, third fastest this year and his personal best.

Ottey dominated the women's semifinals with an excellent 7.08 seconds.

World record holder and two-time defending champion Nelli Fiere-Cooman of the Netherlands failed to make the final.

Johnson was looking at his Seville performance for revenge over critics who opposed his comeback following his disgrace at the 1988 Olympics where he tested positive for steroids.

He also wanted to restore a good reputation after his case shook the world of track and field for months.

It also cost him an Olympic gold, two world records and millions of dollars in lost endorsements.

Johnson wants most if not all of this back.

"Most of the athletes have been pointing a finger at me. I haven't been pointing a finger at them. But that's always the way it's going to be," he said.

Two of Johnson's most prominent competitors - American Carl Lewis and Christie - have criticized his comeback and said it should have been stopped.