Yesterday, news broke that world 100m champion Justin Gatlin was at the centre of a doping scandal after his coach and agent were busted in a Telegraph report offering to supply performance-enhancing drugs for a fee.
Gatlin has since sacked his coach and released a definite statement denying any personal wrongdoing. The American sprinter addressed the issue on Instagram:
I am not using and have not used PEDs. I was shocked and surprised to learn that my coach would have anything to do with even the appearance of these current accusations. I fired him as soon as I found out about this.
Gatlin has previously served two doping bans. In 2001, Gatlin was banned from international competition for two years after testing positive for amphetamines. This was put down to his attention deficit disorder medication (ADD) which he has taken since he was a child and contained amphetamines.
In 2006, Gatlin once again failed a test. He was then coached by Jamaican-born Trevor Graham and was the eighth Graham athlete who tested positive. US Olympic Committee barred Graham from all it's training sites indefinitely after the BALCO scandal. For Gatlin, on this occasion, it was the banned steroid testosterone. Gatlin initially accepted an eight-year ban and avoided a lifetime suspension. A year later he appealed his sentence and had it reduced to four years.
One of the most frustrating aspects of doping scandals such as this for fans is the wall of silence surrounding the focus person. It is rare for fellow athletes to speak out and offer any real condemnation. Irish Olympian and 400m hurdler Thomas Barr has opted to not follow that route and responded to Gatlin's post today on Twitter:
Correct me if I’m wrong, but have you not served two bans for PEDs? Granted the first ban was for medication since childhood. That still narrows it down to one... pic.twitter.com/rpbP7iC1z7
— Thomas Barr (@TomBarr247) December 19, 2017
Barr has never shied away from discussions about doping and the scale of the problem. He deserves credit for being one of the few athletes willing to discuss the issue openly.