Gatlin may be innocent but doping stench is hard to shake

Where there is smoke, is there always fire?

For supporters of Justin Gatlin they will be hoping this is not the case, but by mere association with figures involved in fresh doping allegations, it will be difficult for the previously banned sprinter to avoid suspicion that he remains a drug cheat.

Gatlin's coach Dennis Mitchell and an agent he has been associated with, Robert Wagner, have been accused by England's the Telegraph of offering performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to an undercover journalist, who was taking part in an investigation carried out by the newspaper.

The Telegraph also claimed Mitchell said athletes get away with doping because testing cannot detect the use of PEDs.

Mitchell and Wagner have denied the allegations.

Gatlin, who beat Usain Bolt to be crowned men's world 100 metres champion in London last August, has unsurprisingly distanced himself from Mitchell.

He used an Instagram post to state he is not using PEDs and he is "shocked and surprised to learn that my coach would have anything to do with even the appearance of these current accusations".

He also announced he had "fired" Mitchell as coach as soon as he found out about the allegations and may seek to take legal action against the Telegraph.

It is a predictable move in the latest round of a public relations battles Gatlin has been unsuccessfully fighting since he returned to track and field in 2010 following a four-year doping suspension.

Gatlin had tested positive to testosterone in 2006, two years after he won gold in the 100m at the Athens Olympics, and his return was unwelcomedby many in the sport, who felt he should have been banned for life.

Some of this ill feeling is to do with the fact he was handed a two-year ban in 2001 for the use of amphetamines, but was given an early reinstatement upon appeal after he argued the positive test was returned because he was taking medication for attention deficit disorder, which he had been diagnosed with during his childhood.

Justin Gatlin of the U.S. wins the final ahead of Christian Coleman of the US and Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

The medal success Gatlin has enjoyed at the Olympics and world championships following his 2010 return, added to the fact his personal bests of 9.74 for the 100m and 19.57 for the 200m were achieved at age 33 in 2015, has led to concerns he may still be involved in doping.

Several observers have claimed Gatlin does not deserve the negative public opinion, given he has not failed a doping test since he returned from his suspension.

Also, other athletes, who have served bans, have not had to bear the antipathy Gatlin has faced, which is illustrated by the chorus of boos that greet the American every time he makes an appearance at a major championship.

Mitchell's doping history taints Gatlin

Arguments supporting the validity of these points can be raised, but if Gatlin wanted to be free of the shroud of suspicion he should never have employed Mitchell as his coach because of the former's doping record as an athlete.

Mitchell, who won bronze in the 100m and gold in the 4x100m relay at the 1992 Olympics, returned a positive doping test in 1998 showing high levels of testosterone.

He claimed the test result had come about after he had drunk five bottles of beer and had sex with his wife at least four times.

Justin Gatlin sacked Dennis Mitchell as his coach following the fresh doping allegations.

USA Track and Field (USATF) cleared Mitchell but track and field's governing body, the IAAF, refused to do so and slapped him with a two-year suspension in 1999.

He later testified at the trial of his former coach Trevor Graham, who had also coached Gatlin, in the BALCO case, claiming Graham had injected him with human growth hormone.

Mitchell's presence as a coach has always attracted criticism.

The USATF came under fire when it included him on its coaching staff for the IAAF World Relays in 2014, a move which led one his former national teammates, Lauren Fleshman, to liken the appointment to "putting someone who has formerly served time for fraud in charge of your bank".

Gatlin cannot be blamed for the sins of Mitchell's career as an athlete, but having used him as his coach the 35-year-old has no excuses to fall back on after being linked to the current doping allegations.

The stench of any potential guilt by association will be difficult for Gatlin to shake, especially when he has not been able to bury his own doping demons.

Original Article

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