Gatlin Will Claim Sabotage In Defense of Doping Charges

Justin Gatlin finishes first at the Kansas Relays on April 22, 2006; he tested positive for doping at that meet.
Justin Gatlin finishes first at the Kansas Relays on April 22, 2006; he tested positive for doping at that meet. (By Mike Ransdell -- Associated Press)
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 30, 2007

Facing a possible eight-year ban from track and field for a positive drug test last summer, Olympic 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin plans to allege during a two-day arbitration that begins today in Atlanta that he might have been unwittingly doped by a massage therapist who rubbed a testosterone cream onto his legs, according to Gatlin and his attorney.

Gatlin, 25, could find no other explanation for the positive test, which medical experts told him was consistent with the application of a steroid-based cream, said the attorney, John P. Collins of Chicago. The therapist, Chris Whetstine, is expected to attend the hearing and has denied the charges.

Gatlin's legal strategy includes introducing possible motives for a sabotage, Gatlin said.

Gatlin tested positive for testosterone or its precursors at a meet in Lawrence, Kan., on April 22, 2006. Collins said the positive test was a one-time occurrence, and that the facts of the case and Gatlin's behavior -- including cooperation in a federal steroid probe -- substantiate Gatlin's claim that he did not knowingly take drugs or allow anyone to administer drugs to him.

"It has been a very hard and stressful year not only for myself but also for my family and friends," Gatlin said yesterday. "We are looking forward to this hearing and the outcome to justify my innocence. I have been working to clear my name since the moment of hearing this unbelievable and hurtful news, as well as working side-by-side with the federal government."

Gatlin's task is monumental: the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug-testing in U.S. Olympic sports, has not lost a doping case in its seven years of existence. The World Anti-Doping Code, meantime, offers little wiggle room for athletes who claim they ingested or received drugs unknowingly, and arbitration panels historically have denied athletes' claims for lenience. USADA senior managing director and general counsel Travis Tygart declined to comment other than to say, "In every case, we're here simply to ensure that rules are upheld for all athletes."

Collins is expected to argue that if Gatlin, who matched the 100-meter world record of 9.77 seconds on May 12, 2006, were systematically doping, he would have tested positive more than once given the unusual scrutiny his samples received after USADA discovered the synthetic steroid. Collins said five of Gatlin's urine samples after April 22, including four within nine weeks of the positive test, underwent examination by a highly regarded and rarely used test known as the CIR, which distinguishes natural from artificial testosterone. All were negative.

Gatlin was tested seven times between the date of his positive and when he was informed of the positive result two months later, Collins said. All were negative. Gatlin also tested negative in more than 35 other tests since 2001, including when a CIR test was used to probe an out-of-competition test in January of 2005.

"We have been able to determine that [the positive] was clearly a one-time event," Collins said.

Collins also plans to argue at the hearing, which will be closed to the public and media, that Gatlin should receive consideration for his cooperation with USADA and federal investigators in the five-year-old steroid investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, known as Balco. After meeting with Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the Balco case, Gatlin said, he recorded several phone calls with his coach, Trevor Graham, who was indicted last fall on charges of lying to Balco investigators.

Gatlin said his willingness to place the phone calls -- he made the first call in Novitzky's presence immediately after Novitzky made the request last August -- and the fact he was not implicated in any of the recordings prove he had no knowledge of or involvement in any doping activities. Gatlin said he received a federal grand-jury subpoena from Novitzky but was never summoned to testify before any grand jury.

"Novitzky did say that Justin was the only athlete they ever had to step up and to agree to work with him without any hesitation, right on the spot," said Jeanette Gatlin, the runner's mother.

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