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

Updated: August 7, 2006, 10:49 AM ET
Associated Press

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.

Graham athletes suspended or
investigated in doping scandals
Justin Gatlin: Said he tested positive for testosterone after a relay race in Kansas in April. If found guilty, he faces a lifetime ban for a second offense. In college, he tested positive for a banned substance contained in medication for attention deficit disorder. His original two-year ban was reduced by the IAAF.
Marion Jones: Ex-husband and banned shot-putter C.J. Hunter and BALCO founder Victor Conte have both alleged she used performance-enhancing substances. She has never tested positive and firmly denied all accusations but has been under scrutiny in BALCO probe. Tim Montgomery: He was charged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in the BALCO scandal despite never failing a test. He received a two-year ban, was stripped of his world record and retired.
Dennis Mitchell: In 1998, he was banned for two years after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
C.J. Hunter: Hunter, the ex-husband of Marion Jones, failed four tests for the steroid nandrolone in 2000 and missed the Sydney Olympics. He retired and was suspended for two years in 2001.
Jerome Young: Young won gold with the 4x400 U.S. relay team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was stripped of his medal after it was revealed he tested positive for nandrolone in 1999. Young, the world 400 champion in 2003, was banned for life in 2004 after testing positive for EPO.
Alvin Harrison: Though he never failed a test, he accepted a four-year ban in October 2004 after admitting using EPO, among other performance-enhancing drugs, in the BALCO scandal.
Calvin Harrison: Twin brother of Alvin, he was suspended for two years in August 2004 after his second doping violation. He was found guilty of using the stimulant modafinil at the U.S. championships in June 2003. He also tested positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine at the 1993 U.S. junior indoors and served a three-month ban.
Michelle Collins: She testified before the BALCO grand jury and her eight-year ban was reduced to four. USADA charged her with doping -- including use of the steroid THG and EPO -- based on patterns observed in her blood and urine tests, and she was stripped of her titles.
Patrick Jarrett: The Jamaican sprinter, the only man to beat Maurice Greene in 2001, was banned for two years in 2001 after testing positive for steroid stanozolol at his national trials.
-- The Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press