Justin Gatlin: world champion’s team involved in new doping scandal

Sprinter fires coach after allegations that performance-enhancing drugs were offered to undercover journalist

Justin Gatlin 100m coach agent doping allegations
US sprinter Justin Gatlin won 100m gold at the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships in London
(Image credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

World 100m champion Justin Gatlin is at the centre of fresh controversy after undercover reporters claimed that members of his team “offered to illicitly supply performance-enhancing drugs”.

The American sprinter has received two bans during his career for doping, but returned in 2010, claiming that he was clean. The 35-year-old went on to beat Usain Bolt to win gold in the 100m at his summer’s World Championships in London.

But following the claims by The Daily Telegraph, Gatlin is now being investigated by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which was set up earlier this year by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

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The Telegraph says it began its undercover investigation in July “after being told that specific agents and trainers were involved in administering and supplying drugs to athletes and that the regulators had failed to take action”.

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Undercover reporters from the newspaper visited Gatlin’s training camp in Florida, posing as representatives of a production company who were making an athletics film and requesting help in training their actor to resemble a top-class sprinter. According to the reporters, Gatlin’s coach, Dennis Mitchell, who won a 100m bronze in the 1992 Olympics, “offered to supply and administer testosterone and human-growth hormone for an actor training for a film”.

The reporters say they were told the drugs would be supplied through a doctor in Austria for a fee of $250,000 (£187,000).

The paper adds that Mitchell and a sports agent, Robert Wagner, “were also secretly recorded claiming that the use of banned substances in athletics was still widespread as they described how positive doping tests could be avoided”.

Wagner is a well-established agent whose previous clients include Ben Johnson, the disgraced Canadian sprinter stripped of his 100m gold at the 1988 Olympics for steroid abuse.

The Telegraph says that during one meeting, the agent “claimed that Gatlin had himself been taking performance enhancing drugs - which the sprinter has strenuously denied in a statement”.

In response to the allegations, published last night, the American sprinter’s legal representatives announced that Mitchell had been sacked. In addition, Renaldo Nehemiah, Gatlin’s agent for more than a decade, said that Wagner had worked for Gatlin on only two or three occasions “and that the sprinter was not present when banned substances were discussed with the agent or coach”.

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BBC Sport reports that the USADA has issued a statement that says: “Investigations stemming from tips and whistle-blowers play a critical role in anti-doping efforts. We are presently coordinating with the Athletics Integrity Unit in order to investigate these claims fully.

“As with all investigations, we encourage individuals with information to come forward as an important tool to help protect clean athletes. Importantly, individuals are innocent unless and until the established process determines otherwise.”

IAAF president Lord Coe described the allegations as “serious”, adding: “I know the independent Athletics Integrity Unit will investigate in accordance with its mandate.”

Mitchell has denied the claims made in the Telegraph, saying: “I never suggested in any way that any of my current athletes used any banned substances or that I was familiar with training any of my current athletes with those substances.”

Wagner also denied the charges, saying: “I wasn’t involved in doping. Obviously, I played along because I knew what was going on. I had to get them hooked.”

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