Athletics: Gatlin masseur denies sabotage

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The sports masseur accused by the coach Trevor Graham of setting up his athlete Justin Gatlin for a positive dope test has denied the charge.

Graham said a disgruntled masseur - whom he has subsequently identified as Chris Whetstine - had applied a mysterious cream to the Olympic and world 100 metres champion's legs at the Kansas Relays on 22 April, where Gatlin's sample showed traces of testosterone.

"Trevor Graham is not speaking on behalf of Justin Gatlin and the story about me is not true," Whetstine said in a statement released by his attorney, Elizabeth Baker. "I have fully cooperated with the investigation into this matter," added Whetstine, who has worked as Gatlin's masseur for much of the past three years.

Graham, who has refused to comment on Whetstine's reaction, said this week that the masseur had been upset with Gatlin because he thought the sprinter had been responsible for him being fired earlier this year. Whetstine was later reinstated and has travelled with Gatlin to meetings since April, the coach added.

Graham said Whetstine had applied a whitish cream to Gatlin's groin area and the back of his knees after the Kansas Relays. "When I asked, 'What is that?'" Graham recalled, "he [Whetstine] said, 'Get away'." "He then put it [a tube of the cream] in his pocket." Graham asked Gatlin whether was he having problems with his groin area and his knee. "He said, 'No', so I dropped it," Graham added.

Gatlin, who faces a life ban and the loss of the 100m world record he shares with the Jamaican Asafa Powell if he is found to have committed a doping offence, is due to face a US Anti-Doping Agency hearing next week. He has denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs.

USADA performed 2,262 doping control tests in the second quarter of 2006, resulting in 10 violations, according to statistics released this week. Gatlin was included in the tests given, though his positive test is not included in the statistics as the case has not yet been resolved.