Is Justin Gatlin Taunting the Bear?

September 9, 2014 0

© Copyright – 2014 – Athletics Illustrated

Straight9

 

Sprinting, like cycling, is rife with suspicious results throughout the top performance range. Such is the state of sprinting at the world-class level that all 100m performances under the 10 second barrier and all 200m times near 20 seconds automatically draw suspicion. Justin Gatlin’s latest performance does nothing to change that perspective; in fact it magnifies it, drawing the ire and more dangerously apathy of track fans while bringing the sport further into disrepute and looming demise. Perhaps sprinting is where cycling was near the height of the Lance Armstrong debacle.

On Friday, September 5th, two-time drug cheat Gatlin of the US won the 100m sprint during the Memorial van Damme meet that took place in Brussels, Belgium as part of the Diamond League Series. He finished in the time of 9.77. All-time, only four men, Jamaicans Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell as well as fellow American Tyson Gay have legally run faster. This result is the ninth-fastest (currently) legal result in history. This performance alone is fast enough to suspect him of cheating due to his history of taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

In the same meet and just one hour later, Gatlin destroyed the 200m field by finishing in the time of 19.71. The above 100m performance is tied as his lifetime personal best along with a result that was annulled due to his doping history. This 19.71 is his second-fastest lifetime, he ran 19.68 earlier this year –all attained at the age of 32 and post-four-year doping suspension.

Nothing smells here.

Powell’s personal best time of 9.72, he has been suspended for a doping violation for taking a stimulant, when he appealed the ruling, the ban was lifted; therefore his bests remain on the books. Powell has also run 9.74 and 9.77.

Fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake, who has run as fast as 9.69 and is the third-fastest man in history with this time (that remains on the books), was suspended for a doping violation for taking the stimulant 4-Methyl-2-hexanamine in 2009.

Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, who has a personal best of 9.96 in 2002 tested positive for a substance that was found in his asthma medication. He was later reinstated as he simply failed to advise WADA that he was using the medication, legally. Although Collins’ story may be valid, there are many athletes that mysteriously require asthma medication to compete.

In 1999, the only British sprinter to win a gold medal in four major international events including Olympics, Worlds, European Championships as well as Commonwealth Games in the 100m distance, Linford Christie, tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug Nandrolone. He had previously tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a stimulant. Christie had run as fast as 9.87.

Jamaican Nesta Carter has run as fast as 9.78, he is the fifth fastest man in history. Although he has never tested positive for PEDs, his performances will always be associated with his teammates who have been sanctioned including 4 x 100m relay members Blake and Powell. Therefore Bolt, the fastest of them all, will have his legacy forever questioned, right or wrong.

Gay was also suspended due to a doping infraction, which he admitted to; but blamed his personal therapist, even though the mysterious cream the therapist was applying was clearly labelled as containing anabolic steroids. Gay has run as fast as 9.75, which was a world-leading time for 2013 and his third-best as well as tenth-fastest in history. This leaves only Jamaican Usain Bolt that has not been sanctioned for taking performance enhancing drugs that has run faster. Bolt has run faster than Gay seven times including the remarkable world record of 9.58.  Is Bolt the proverbial golden goose?

When something went terribly wrong in the state of sprinting.

Ben Johnson, who ran the world record time of 9.79 during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games 100m final, was suspended for taking the anabolic steroid Stanazolol, three days later. His records were annulled from the books. But unlike Bolt and company, Johnson was taunting the bear; it appeared he and perhaps more so his coach Charlie Francis was shoving it into the face of the International Olympic Committee on the world’s biggest sporting stage. Johnson was so doped up that his eyes were glowing yellow, his head and face were badly swollen and he was ripped from head-to-toe, unlike any time in his past. Johnson and Francis were asking for trouble and they got it. However, on the stand of the Dubin Inquiry Francis said when referring to the Olympic sprint final, “it was an even playing field, it just wasn’t the playing field you thought it was.”

Since Johnson’s martyrdom he never regained form; however, many other athletes’ sub-10 second results have either been annulled due to positive drug tests or are suspect due to positive tests. For example, American Tim Montgomery ran a hundredth of a second faster than Johnson to temporarily claim the world record, but due to subsequent positive tests, all of his records were removed from the books. He was later charged with fraud and dealing heroin. Montgomery acquired anabolic steroids from Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) along with infamous MLB star Barry Bonds.

Ato Bolden of Trinidad and Tobago was sanctioned for taking ephedrine, a stimulant. He has run as fast as 9.86 four times in his career. His results are still on the books as are the results of Dwain Chambers of Great Britain who received a two-year ban in 2003, having testing positive for THG that he bought from Victor Conte owner of BALCO. He ran as fast as 9.97 and 9.95 wind-assisted.

American Shawn Crawford won a gold medal during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and silver during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In April of 2013, Crawford was suspended for two years for missing out-of-competition testing. Ironically he was the first man to break both barriers of sub-10 seconds and sub-20 seconds on the same day for the 100m and 200m events, as first time benchmarks.

Dr. Wade Exum who at the time (during the 1990s) was the director of drug control administration for the United States Olympic Committee gave Sports Illustrated documents containing the names of approximately 100 American athletes who had failed drug tests, including Carl Lewis.

Lewis who won 10 Olympic medals, as well as 10 IAAF World Track and Field Championships medals in the 100m and the long jump tested positive three times for banned stimulants pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine. His ban was lifted, as he managed to convince authorities that he had taken the drugs inadvertently. He also accused his competition of taking drugs when he lost in the Seoul Olympic final, passively suggesting that Johnson was cheating. Lewis also claimed that Johnson had false started in one particular event, but when that was proven to be incorrect, Lewis later changed his stance and blamed a stomach virus as well as making those disparaging passive cheating remarks.

If, as Charlie Francis indicated, that it was an even playing field during that Olympic final in Seoul, then one can assume that Lewis’s remarks were made out petty jealousy; Lewis’s positive drug test prove Johnson wasn’t the only cheating athlete; later it is proven that the sport is rife with cheating.

A decade later, American Dennis Mitchell was more creative with his excuse for having elevated testosterone. In 1998 he explained that his wife deserved a treat on her birthday and therefore had sex with her four times during the night, while having consumed five bottles of beer. The USATF actually bought the story, but the IAAF didn’t and he was subsequently banned. He had run as fast as 9.91.

In 2011, American Mike Rogers was caught having Methylhexaneamine in his system. This stimulant likely helped him perform his personal best time of 9.85. There are dozens more who have been sanctioned for testing positive for PEDs.

Although having never tested positive, in April of 2008, American Maurice Greene admitted to paying Mexican discus thrower Angel Guillermo Heredia $10,000, which Heredia said was a payment for providing Greene with performance enhancing drugs. Greene claimed that the payment and the meeting did take place, but was not for performance enhancing drugs; $10,000 buys a lot of enchiladas. Greene won two Olympic gold medals as well as six IAAF World outdoor and indoor championship golds.

Sprint history, more than any other athletics event, carries a legacy and therefore a suspicion of cheating.  Watching some of the 2014 Tour de France, it appears that the sport of cycling is in the beginning stages of cleaning up its act. With less positive tests in 2014 as well as slower performances, generally-speaking, perhaps cycling is indeed getting the message.

If the following from the UCI is on the level, then sprinting needs to follow cycling into the new era of cleaner sports:

The Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), responsible for conducting the 2014 Tour de France anti-doping testing programme on behalf of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), has announced that all anti-doping test results have been delivered and that no Adverse Analytical Findings have been recorded.

The CADF collected 719 blood and urine samples at this year’s Tour (compared to 622 samples in 2013). Of these samples, 197 were collected pre-competition for the purposes of the Athlete Biological Passport and the medical monitoring, and a further 522 during the race.

Like Johnson, Lance Armstrong taunted the bear, cycling had had enough. The martyrdom of Lance Armstrong and the revelations of widespread doping did not kill the sport of cycling. This is a lesson that the IAAF, WADA and the IOC should ponder while considering sanctions against sprinters. To stop widespread doping, the governing bodies must, without prejudice or exception, ban all second-time offenders when finding repeat “A” and “B” samples that contain PEDs.

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