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U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin involved in doping investigation

Justin Gatlin won the men’s 100 meters in August, while Usain Bolt finished third in his final individual race at the IAAF world championships. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

American sprinter Justin Gatlin is reportedly involved in an investigation for possible violations conducted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and Athletics Integrity Unit of the International Association of Athletics Federation. The news Monday came on the heels of an undercover operation by a British newspaper, in which Gatlin’s coach and an agent who has worked with the track star indicated they could procure performance-enhancing drugs.

The Daily Telegraph sent a reporter posing as a movie producer to Gatlin’s Florida training camp, where he said he met the Olympian’s coach, Dennis Mitchell, and the agent, Robert Wagner. The reporter said he was making a film about running and wanted to give its star some PEDs to improve his physical attributes.

According to the newspaper, Mitchell and Wagner “offered to supply and administer testosterone and human-growth hormone” to the actor. Wagner reportedly claimed that all track and field athletes doped, although he later said he was just playing along with the supposed producer to “get the job.” Gatlin has reportedly denied claims that he was doping and fired Mitchell.

“I never suggested in any way that any of my current athletes used any banned substances,” Mitchell said in a statement to The Telegraph, “or that I was familiar with training any of my current athletes with those substances.”

“Investigations from tips and whistleblowers play a critical role in anti-doping efforts,” USADA said in a statement. “We are presently coordinating with the Athletics Integrity Unit in order to investigate these claims fully.”

The 35-year-old Gatlin was the last man to earn Olympic gold in the 100 meters before Usain Bolt began his streak of three straight triumphs in that event at the Games. In August, he bested Bolt at the IAAF world championships in what was the Jamaican superstar’s final individual race. Gatlin also won bronze at the 2012 Games, bronze in the 200 meters at the 2004 Games and gold and silver medals in the 4x100m relay.

Gatlin has been suspended for PED violations twice, first in 2001 when he was competing for the University of Tennessee. In 2006, USADA cited Gatlin for testing positive for a banned substance, and while he claimed innocence, he received a four-year ban. In an unusual scene that reflected his negative perception among many track fans, Gatlin was booed at Rio’s Olympic Stadium when he was announced before the 100-meter final at the 2016 Games.

The Telegraph said it was motivated to launch its operation after getting a tip that some track and field agents and trainers were involved in supplying drugs to athletes. Gatlin’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, told the newspaper that his client was not present when banned substances were discussed by Wagner and Mitchell.

“As with all investigations, we encourage individuals with information to come forward as an important tool to help protect clean athletes,” the USADA said. “Importantly, individuals are innocent unless and until the established process determines otherwise. It’s only fair to let due process occur before jumping to any conclusions.”

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