Gatlin Faces Lifetime Ban
Sunday, July 30, 2006
American sprinter Justin Gatlin, co-holder of the title "World's Fastest Man," might never compete again because he tested positive this past spring for the steroid testosterone. Gatlin revealed the test result in a statement released yesterday, but denied knowingly taking any banned substances.
Because Gatlin also flunked a drug test five years ago for a stimulant found in medication he had been taking since childhood for attention deficit disorder, he faces a lifetime ban if found guilty in this latest case. The standard punishment for a testosterone positive is two years.
"I cannot account for these results, because I have never knowingly used any banned substance or authorized anyone else to administer such a substance to me," Gatlin, 24, said in the statement released by his New York-based publicists. "It is simply not consistent with either my character or my confidence in my God-given athletic ability to cheat in any way."
With the announcement, Gatlin became the second prominent U.S. athlete in less than a week to acknowledge a drug test result that could ruin his career. Last Wednesday, cyclist Floyd Landis was informed he had produced an abnormal testosterone test result that could cost him his Tour de France title. Landis has also maintained his innocence.
Gatlin learned on June 15 that he tested positive for testosterone at an April 22 meet in Lawrence, Kan., and that finding was confirmed July 12 in an examination of the second half of Gatlin's urine sample, Gatlin's attorney, Cameron Myler, said in a phone interview from New York. Myler said Gatlin accepted a provisional suspension pending the adjudication of the result.
Gatlin has not been publicly charged with a doping offense because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency does not announce its cases until they run their legal course. Myler said Gatlin decided to withdraw from competition as soon as he learned of the positive test, though he was not required to do so. He was criticized for failing to show up to two meets in Europe this summer in which he was scheduled to race Jamaican Asafa Powell, with whom he shares the 100-meter world record of 9.77 seconds.
If the result is upheld, Gatlin would lose the world record, which he tied on May 12 in Doha, Qatar. He would not, however, lose the gold, silver and bronze medals that he won at the 2004 Athens Olympics, when he established himself as one of the top young sprinters in the world.
Gatlin, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Pensacola, Fla., has long faced questions about his ties to coach Trevor Graham, with whom he has trained in Raleigh, N.C., since leaving the University of Tennessee after his sophomore season. Graham has coached at least six athletes who have been banned for drug violations, including Tim Montgomery, who was forced to relinquish the 100 world record -- then 9.78 seconds -- after he was found guilty of steroid use. Graham also formerly coached Marion Jones, who has faced doping allegations but never tested positive and repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
Gatlin has acknowledged Graham's reputation but claimed he was part of a new, drug-free generation. He has always denied using drugs and been outspoken in denouncing their use. Since testing positive for a stimulant found in Adderall, a prescription drug he had been taking since childhood, he said, he realized one wrong move could end his career.
"That experience made me even more vigilant to make certain that I not come into contact with any banned substance for any reason whatsoever, because any additional anti-doping rule offense could mean a lifetime ban from the sport that I love," he said in the statement.
Gatlin noted he had been tested more than 100 times during his professional career, and that the tests administered just before and after the race in Kansas were negative. His agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, did not return a call seeking comment.
Gatlin did not offer an explanation for the positive test. Myler, who is handling the case with attorney Brian Maas, said Gatlin routinely took a number of supplements, but all had been sent to a lab for analysis, and none showed any trace of testosterone or its chemical precursors. She said she had some idea as to what might have caused the positive result, but declined to elaborate. She said Gatlin did not believe his sample had been spiked with testosterone.
She also said the USADA informed Gatlin that the testosterone had been found by the carbon isotope ratio test, which is considered extremely reliable in detecting exogenous testosterone.
Myler said Gatlin would submit a statement of explanation to the USADA's review board this week. The review board examines every positive test to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed before notifying the sport's international governing body -- in this case, the IAAF -- of the result.
"I have been and will continue to cooperate fully with USADA as it moves forward with the process it has initiated and hope that when all the facts are revealed it will be determined that I have done nothing wrong," Gatlin said. "My parents raised me with love, and . . . I would never do anything that would disappoint them in any way."