Athletics: Pressure builds on Gatlin's coach in doping scandal

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The Independent Online

Justin Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, could face a two-year ban if the Olympic and world 100 metres champion has his positive doping test confirmed, a spokesman for the sport's international governing body said yesterday.

"Once we have enough evidence to prove it, then we have the power to prosecute him," said Nick Davies, of the International Association of Athletics Federations. "He would face a two-year suspension that is in line with the regulations of our anti-doping code."

Graham is under investigation by the US authorities for his links to the Balco doping case in California. At least six athletes who trained under him have received doping suspensions, although he has always denied direct knowledge or involvement.

The IAAF will act only if evidence is established to link Graham to any doping violations and the US Anti-Doping Agency decides not to take action against him.

The IAAF is giving little credence to Graham's claim that Gatlin's positive test for illegal levels of testosterone, after running a relay in Kansas on 22 April, came about through sabotage by a massage therapist disaffected by a previous dismissal who rubbed testosterone cream on the athlete's 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.

Lawyers for Gatlin are pointedly steering clear of Graham's claims, but maintain the athlete will prove his innocence at a USADA hearing which will probably take place next week.

If Gatlin nevertheless seeks to employ Graham's defence, he will not be the first to have made such claims.

Dieter Baumann, the German who won the Olympic 5,000m title, claimed after a positive test for nandrolone in 1999 that he had been the victim of an attempt to "spike" his toothpaste with the illegal substance.

The German federation eventually believed him, but the international authorities did not and he missed the 2000 Olympics.

Ludmila Engqvist, however, enjoyed different fortunes in similar circumstances, avoiding a suspension for doping after her former husband admitted that he had spiked her meal with steroids because he was angry over their divorce. She went on to win a world championship medal and a gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympic bobsleigh event before failing another doping test.

The world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe has expressed dismay that the reputation of athletics has suffered further damage through Gatlin's failed drugs test. "The sport's been dragged through the mud again," said Radcliffe from her Font Romeau base in the French Pyrenees. "But, in the end, it is necessary if we are going to weed out and catch the drug cheats."

Dave Collins, the performance director of UK Athletics, said yesterday that he will be stressing the need for vigilance to the Great Britain team for the European Championships, which begin in Gothenburg next Monday. Collins will be calling the 80-plus squad together when they arrive in Sweden on Thursday.

"I'll be briefing them all to be very careful and keep a close eye on their supplements and any other medication," Collins said. "It is their responsibility to ensure nothing is tampered with and, of course, all of them are aware from past incidents of the possible penalties."