Gatlin's Coach Blames Massage Therapist
Monday, July 31, 2006
U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin unwittingly had testosterone cream rubbed into his legs by a massage therapist who carried a grudge against him before the April race at which he tested positive for steroids, Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, said by phone yesterday.
Graham said Gatlin, who faces a lifetime ban from track and field for the positive test for the anabolic steroid, thought the cream was a harmless lotion. Graham said when he walked in on the massage session the therapist hurriedly stuffed a white jar of the substance in his pocket.
Graham declined to name the massage therapist, saying he did not want to jeopardize the case.
"We know who the person is who actually did this," Graham said by phone from Raleigh, N.C., the home base of his Sprint Capitol team. "Justin is devastated. Myself, too. We're extremely [upset] right now. We are trying to go out and make sure we can prove his innocence, and we hope this individual has the guts to come forward and say he did it."
Gatlin's attorney, Cameron Myler, declined to confirm Graham's account but said Gatlin intended to prove he was not responsible for the positive test. World Anti-Doping Agency rules allow some latitude in the punishment of positive tests that involve special circumstances, but the rules hold athletes accountable for any substance found in their bodies regardless of how it got there.
In a statement yesterday, the world governing body of track and field, known as the IAAF, said it would ban Gatlin from track and field for life if the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency confirms the violation. Gatlin will have the first opportunity to present his defense to a USADA review board this week. That board will determine if enough evidence exists to support a doping charge, which is expected in this case.
"Although it is a matter of deep regret that one of the biggest stars of our sport is facing serious doping charges, I would take this opportunity to emphasise the IAAF's total commitment to the fight against doping," IAAF President Lamine Diack said in the statement. "In order to defend the credibility of our sport, we will engage all our efforts, in co-operation with partners such as USADA, to defend the majority of athletes who are clean, against those who break our anti-doping rules."
Graham said Gatlin's positive showed only a small amount of synthetic testosterone or its precursors, so no natural explanation can be offered for it. Because Gatlin, 24, tested positive in 2001 for a stimulant found in his prescription medicine for attention-deficit disorder, he faces the lifetime ban rather than the typical two-year ban for a first-time doping offense for testosterone.
U.S. sprinter Torri Edwards argued shortly before the 2004 Olympics in Athens that her positive test for a stimulant was due to her consumption of what she believed to be a sugar pill. The USADA recommended that the IAAF consider the special circumstances of her case, but the IAAF still levied a two-year ban from competition.
Gatlin's case had remained secret until he acknowledged it Saturday because it is the policy of USADA not to release information about positive cases until they have run their legal course. Gatlin's positive test came at an April 22 meet in Lawrence, Kan. Less than a month later, he matched the 100-meter world record held by Jamaican Asafa Powell (9.77 seconds) at a race in Doha, Qatar.
Gatlin would lose the world record, but not his three medals from the 2004 Summer Games in Athens if he is found guilty.
Graham said he had hired a private investigator to tail the massage therapist and was prepared to seek criminal charges against him. Graham said the therapist, who had been fired by Graham and rehired in April, denied the charge when confronted with it. Graham speculated that the massage therapist believed Gatlin had requested his firing and was angry about it.
"I definitely can confirm we can look into different options as to how the positive test could have happened," said Myler, who is handling the case with colleague Brian Maas. "But I cannot confirm anything Trevor said, as his comments were not made in coordination with us. Until we are certain, we are not prepared to point a finger at anyone."
Graham has coached at least six athletes who have been banned for doping violations and The New York Times reported he has been the subject of question in the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) performance-enhancing drug scandal. He has repeatedly denied involvement in drugs.
Gatlin, who has not competed since learning of the positive test June 15, is staying with his parents in Pensacola, Fla., Graham said. Gatlin's mother, Jeannette, referred calls to Gatlin's legal team Saturday, when Gatlin announced the positive result in a statement from his publicist. In that statement, Gatlin said he did not knowingly take a performance-enhancing substance or allow it to be given to him.