Johnson: Gatlin tainted by association with coach

Updated: July 31, 2006, 1:32 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Justin Gatlin's association with coach Trevor Graham is the biggest obstacle to proving that he's not a drug cheat, former Olympic champion sprinter Michael Johnson said Monday.

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Gene Wojciechowski
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Writing a column in The Daily Telegraph, Johnson said his initial reaction to hearing that Gatlin had tested positive for banned substances was "not one of shock or surprise."

"Not because I have suspected that Justin was doping -- I've always had a lot of respect for him -- but there has always been one thing about him that has bothered me: his association with coach Trevor Graham," Johnson said.

Graham is a key figure in the BALCO steroid investigation and has coached several athletes who have been suspended in doping cases, including former 100-meter world-record holder Tim Montgomery.

"Even if Gatlin is innocent, now he will be suspected forever and he is about to see the danger of his continued association with Graham, because that association almost guarantees that no one will give him the benefit of the doubt," Johnson wrote.

Johnson won five Olympic gold medals and still holds the world record for the 400 meters and 200 meters. He's the agent for reigning Olympic and world 400-meter champion Jeremy Wariner.

Graham said Sunday that Gatlin, the reigning Olympic and world champion and co-world record holder in the 100, was victim of a massage therapist who rubbed testosterone cream on Gatlin without his knowledge.

"That's a new twist on an old excuse and Graham has no credibility," Johnson said.

On Saturday, Gatlin acknowledged he had been informed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he tested positive for testosterone or other steroids after a relay race in Kansas in April. He said he didn't know why the test came back positive and promised cooperation with USADA, as it continues with the case.

Johnson said Gatlin should be banned for life unless he can prove his innocence. He said Graham also should be banned for life for his involvement with athletes who tested positive while training under him.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press