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Johnson: Gatlin tainted by association with coach

7/31/2006

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.

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.