07.31.06

And now, Justin Gatlin

Posted in Doping, News, Track and Field/Athletics at 8:46 am by Nicole

It’s almost too difficult to write about – the news of Justin Gatlin’s positive doping test for “testosterone or its precursors,” the links to BALCO-tainted coach Trevor Graham, the fact that the USATF’s poster boy for clean living has failed a drug test. Like Floyd Landis, Gatlin has already been tried and convicted in the press – but there’s a flip side to that tendency, since we’ve been lied to in the past. Really lied to. Lied to with a straight face. Lied to with the athlete’s devastated parents sitting right there. Remember the Kelli White “I have narcolepsy and it’s none of your business” whoppers? Not to mention the Barry Bonds whoppers, and the Ben Johnson “I’ll pay back whoever did this to me” whoppers (like Gatlin now, Johnson’s first defense in Seoul in 1988 was that somebody had set him up).

So we have both reason and sad precedent to doubt every word that comes out of an athlete’s mouth at a time like this.

Bill Moyers, one of my personal heroes in journalism, has said that all journalism is investigative – everything else is just public relations. At the Play the Game conference on good governance in sport, held in Copenhagen, Denmark last November, it was amazingly refreshing to meet European sports journalists like Andrew Jennings, who actually take this idea to heart. In the United States, we still seem to want our heroes too much to ask the hard questions. “I’m the king of the sprints!” Gatlin crowed to the press corps after winning one of his two indivudual gold medals at the 2005 world track and field championships in Helsinki. Not one American journalist in the mixed zone that night asked Gatlin about his association with Trevor Graham. I know…it was done at nationals, how many times can you ask somebody the same question, blah blah blah. Bottom line: I do not believe the American press corps has pushed hard enough to investigate the issue of doping in track and field. Especially at the major championships, especially when an athlete with a tainted coach has just won two world gold medals – that is the time to be asking the hard questions.

The best and most insightful of the Gatlin news clips from the last few days follow below.

Record holder in 100 meters failed a drug test (The New York Times – note that this link will be available free for a week, then becomes part of TimesSelect)

Sprinter Gatlin fails doping test (Los Angeles Times)

Innocence is lost in Gatlin’s positive test (Los Angeles Times – Helene Elliott)

Sprinter’s test deepens doping crisis (Guardian Unlimited, UK)

Poison corrupting U.S. sport (Fox Sports, Australia)

It’s positively mind boggling (Chicago Tribune – Philip Hersh)

Focus turns to coaches (Times Online,UK)

Americans continue to lead the world in mysteriously tainted urine (Deadspin)

Gatlin nailed for doping – Coach, letter link athlete to BALCO (San Francisco Chronicle)

IAAF urges governments to destroy criminal elements (Reuters)

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