Eight-Year Ban Sought For Failed Drug Test
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced yesterday it would seek an eight-year ban from track and field for Justin Gatlin, who failed a drug test for testosterone or its precursors at an April meet.
The USADA could have sought a lifetime ban for Gatlin, 24, a three-time Olympic medalist, because the positive test was his second offense. The 100-meter world record he tied in May would be forfeited if Gatlin lost in arbitration.
The agency ruled that Gatlin's first offense -- for a stimulant found in prescription medicine he had been taking since childhood -- shouldn't carry the full weight of a standard violation.
"The nature of Gatlin's first offense for use of his medication puts this violation in a unique category," USADA chief executive Terry Madden said in a statement.
Gatlin also promised to cooperate by assisting in anti-doping efforts, but USADA attorney Travis Tygart declined to elaborate on what that cooperation would entail. Gatlin apparently has not agreed to provide information that would assist USADA's investigation of his coach, Trevor Graham, for allegedly giving drugs to athletes.
If Gatlin were able to help USADA bring doping charges against Graham, international anti-doping rules would allow USADA to further reduce the ban, halving it.
Gatlin's attorney, Cameron Myler, said Gatlin was not admitting guilt and she hoped to get him running "as soon as possible." She reiterated that Gatlin had not changed his stance: He did not knowingly take drugs or allow anyone to administer them.
Even so, many in the world of Olympic sports viewed USADA's announcement yesterday as an admission of guilt by Gatlin.
"Justin Gatlin's doping case has been a setback for our sport," Craig Masback, CEO of USA Track and Field, said in a statement. "While we are glad Justin has taken responsibility for his positive test and will cooperate in USADA's anti-doping efforts, we are sorely disappointed in him."
Gatlin's case will head to an arbitration panel in the coming weeks. Gatlin, who agreed not to contest the validity of the science behind his positive tests -- which came in April after a meet in Kansas -- reserved the right to seek a lesser ban in arbitration, the statement said. Gatlin's legal team, however, faces an enormous task if it hopes to reduce the ban significantly.
The World Anti-Doping Code allows little latitude in the issuance of bans to athletes who test positive, operating on the principle that athletes are responsible for what shows up in their systems. Should Gatlin argue that he was victimized by a massage therapist who rubbed testosterone on his legs -- as Graham has claimed but Myler has declined to support -- he likely would be eligible for no more than a halving of the ban he faces because his therapist is considered part of his inner circle, according to the anti-doping code.
The rules only allow the elimination of a ban in cases in which an athlete takes all proper precautions and is sabotaged, say by a rival.
The same ban reduction holds for providing assistance that would help USADA uncover a doping violation by another athlete or coach. Even if Gatlin were to provide assistance against Graham or someone else, it would result in no more than another halving of the proposed ban, according to the code.
In other news, the attorney for Floyd Landis, who tested positive for testosterone after winning the Tour de France, said his client's case is temporarily stalled because of an apparent clerical mistake.
The attorney, Howard Jacobs, said he has been waiting weeks for the document file he is entitled to review before the case goes forward. Though Landis's A and B samples both showed the presence of synthetic testosterone, the USADA has not charged him because the case hasn't yet been presented to the agency's review board.
Landis and Howard have contended that the case has been fraught with procedural errors since Landis's cycling team announced he failed a drug test just days after the conclusion of the Tour.
Officials at the French lab could not be reached to comment.