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IAAF: Gatlin's coach might face two-year ban

8/7/2006

Sprinter Justin Gatlin isn't the only one facing a ban in the
wake of doping violations against him.

His embattled coach also could be barred from track and field if
allegations against the Olympic and world champion hold up.

The focus has shifted to Trevor Graham, who trains Gatlin and
has been involved with at least a half-dozen other athletes who
have received drug suspensions. Track's international governing
body announced Graham could face a two-year ban if Gatlin is found
guilty.

"Once we have enough evidence to prove it, then we have the
power to prosecute him," spokesman Nick Davies of the
International Association of Athletics Federations said.

The IAAF isn't the only agency considering going after Graham.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency can penalize him if it confirms
Gatlin's positive doping test. And the U.S. Olympic Committee has
been on a continuing quest to find ways to sanction coaches who
violate the rules, including withholding credentials to major
events and barring them from training facilities.

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said the federation would never
back down on its stance that athletes are ultimately responsible
for what goes into their bodies.

"That said, we believe there are others who carry significant
influence with athletes who must also share in the responsibility
for clean competition," Seibel said. "Specifically, agents,
coaches and trainers must also be held accountable when there is a
pattern of doping positives."

Of course, nobody has more on the line than Gatlin himself. This
would be his second doping violation, which could bring with it a
lifetime ban.

"I can't say anything about this," Gatlin said Tuesday after
answering the door at his family's home in Pensacola, Fla.

On Saturday, the co-world-record holder acknowledged that USADA
informed him of a test indicating he had used testosterone or other
steroids. He promised cooperation with the agency, which was formed
by the USOC in 2000, but said he didn't know how steroids got into
his system.

The IAAF said it gave little credence to Graham's claim that
Gatlin was the victim of a vengeful massage therapist who rubbed
testosterone cream on his legs without his knowledge.

"We have a strict liability rule that what's in your body is
your responsibility, so unless there was an independent witness who
saw everything clearly, there really isn't a possibility that there
would be something in that," Davies said.

Cameron Myler, Gatlin's attorney, said Graham was "not speaking
on behalf of Justin."

Speaking by telephone from her office in New York, Myler said
Gatlin has voluntarily withdrawn from competition until the doping
issue was resolved.

She said her client's case would be based "on the 'exceptional
circumstances' clause of the World Anti-Doping code."

That clause allows for a lesser penalty if it can be proved that
the athlete wasn't responsible for the positive test. The exception
is rarely granted.

"It's a difficult standard, but it's definitely something that
we're working toward," Myler said.

"We're trying to reconstruct what happened in Kansas, looking
at who had access to Justin to cause the positive result. Justin
didn't do anything to cause this and he didn't authorize anyone to
put anything on him that would have caused it."

In addition to the life ban, Gatlin would lose the world
100-meter record. He equaled Jamaican Asafa Powell's mark of 9.77
seconds in May, a month after the positive test. Gatlin would keep
his Athens gold medal in the 100 and world 100 and 200 titles from
2005.

Gatlin was suspended in 2001 after testing positive for an
amphetamine found in medication he was taking for attention deficit
disorder. The IAAF gave him early reinstatement, but said the
suspension remained on his record and he would face a life ban for
any second violation.

Gatlin's mother, Jeanett, said during a telephone interview Monday
that her son was "doing as well as can be expected."

Graham, who answered the door Tuesday at his house in Raleigh,
N.C., said Gatlin would "have his day in court. He's a good kid."
He refused to comment on a possible suspension.

"I've already made my statement," Graham said. "My attorney
already made a statement."

However, his attorney, Joe Zeszotarski, told The Associated
Press in an e-mail that his client has never taken part in
distributing illegal substances to athletes.

"It is curious that people who are not familiar with the situation can claim that Trevor has somehow done something wrong," Zeszotarski wrote. "It is worth reminding everyone that one of the chief reasons the issue of doping has come to the forefront is
because of Trevor's integrity and courage in turning in the sample
that led [to] the uncovering of the BALCO enterprise. Given what
some people have lost as a result of Trevor's integrity in turning
in the sample, it is not surprising that there are people who would
make false claims about him."

At least six athletes who trained under Graham have received
doping suspensions. Graham, however, has always denied direct
knowledge or involvement with drug use.

In a column published Monday, former Olympic champion sprinter
Michael Johnson said Gatlin's association with Graham was the
biggest obstacle to proving that he's not a drug cheat.

Writing 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.

"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.