July 30, 2006

Testosterone, Too

Free Floyd Landis: I wish I had thought of that title, but it's a new blog that promises to address the issues surrounding the testosterone test as the Landis story unfolds over the coming weeks and months. The author, "Free Floyd," has already done a nice job discussing the testosterone testing protocol and the T/E ratio threshold.

This weekend American track star and world record co-holder Justin Gatlin was informed that he had tested positive for testosterone or its precursors at an in-competition test on April 22. Naturally, this is being linked to the Landis case in the media (and now I'm doing it, too). But there are a couple of important differences. First, judging by the statements of Dick Pound, it sounds like this has already been judged to be a doping violation — in other words, unlike the Landis case, the complete laboratory investigation has been completed before the public announcement of the test result.

The B sample is positive, they've gone through that whole exercise. What remains now is for the appropriate penalty to be handed out by the US Anti-Doping Agency and that will be reviewed by the IAAF, and by WADA if we're not satisfied that the right result has been achieved.

I can't really speak to exactly what was done with Gatlin's sample in the laboratory. In light of the announcement, I hope that a "reliable analytical method (e.g. IRMS)," as WADA puts it, was performed on either his A or his B sample, and came back positive for exogenous testosterone.

The other difference between the two cases is that while Landis' supporters are searching for a physiological excuse for the positive test, Gatlin's coach has immediately determined, with full certainty, that his was an inside job:

We are 100 percent sure who it is. The individual that did it, it's an individual that we fired and we went back and hired … he came to the [April 22] Kansas relay and was [upset] with Justin.

Gatlin is coached by Trevor Graham, who is the former coach of (dum, da-dum-dum) Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones. Graham has confessed to being the man who kick-started the investigation that led to the BALCO scandal, by anonymously sending the USADA a syringe filled with THG. Nine of his current or former athletes have tested positive and/or been charged with doping offenses.

Gatlin has already been suspended once for using a banned stimulant. In that case he was eventually found to have "no significant fault or negligence" as he had a legitimate medical need for the medication. His two-year ban was reduced to just over a year, but he was specifically warned by the IAAF that any repeat offense would result in a lifetime ban. A case of sabotage, if it could be proven, might be the only thing that can save him from that fate.

And since Graham is 100 percent sure who the culprit is, then the proof should be forthcoming any day now.

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