Chanman's Blog

The end of the Bolt era, but not the moment track & field wanted

The end of the Bolt era_UslainSaturday August 5, 2017 was the 100 meter final at the 2017 World Championships. Usain Bolt had already announced that this would be his final individual race (he will still race in the 4X100 relay next week). With thirteen individual gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters from the Olympics and World Championships, this was a much anticipated finale for track & field’s biggest star.

If Bolt were to win, he would go out in style, doing what he has done almost without fail since 2008 – WIN. There would be loud cheering, perhaps as loud as it was when the Brit’s own Mo Farah won the night before. There would be throngs of photographers following him, imploring him to do his famous “Bolt Arms” pose. The Jamaican fans would cheer wildly. Bolt would take a long, circuitous lap around the track that would both be a victory lap and a farewell lap.

On the other hand, 21-year old American Christian Coleman, owner of a 9.82 personal record that makes him the fourth fastest American in history, seemed ready to beat Bolt. Perhaps a Coleman win at these World Championships would represent an official “changing of the guard” – Bolt passing the baton to his heir apparent as sprint king.

Either scenario would give track & field a signature moment.

But instead, track & field got an eyesore of a moment.

Justin Gatlin, an athlete mired with doping allegations and drug suspensions in his past, was the man who beat Bolt in Bolt’s last race. All meet long, whenever Gatlin was introduced, the knowledgeable London fans would boo. Not the most sportsmanlike thing to do but it is hard to be critical of the booing.

If you need a refresher course on Gatlin, here it is. In 2001, while in college at the University of Tennessee, Gatlin failed a drug test. The drug was an amphetamine that was in a medicine he was taking for attention deficit disorder (ADD). Gatlin’s initial two year suspension was shortened when the details about the medication were uncovered. But he was informed at that time that any subsequent positive drug test would be treated as a second offense (which comes with a lifetime ban).

He had a very successful 2004-2005, winning the gold in the 100 meters at the Athens Olympics and winning the gold in both the 100 and 200 meters the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.

In May 2006, Gatlin ran a World Record tying time of 9.77. However that mark was annulled after he failed a drug test from a meet in April (the result did not come back until June). Gatlin and his coach Trevor Graham (himself linked to eleven athletes who tested positive on a drug test and/or served a drug suspension) claimed Gatlin was sabotaged by their massage therapist Chris Whetstine. They claimed Whetstine massaged testosterone cream into Gatlin’s legs and that’s what led to the positive drug test. This being his second offense, should have meant a lifetime ban. However, Gatlin cooperated with anti-doping officials and because of the “exceptional circumstances” of his first offense, Gatlin was given an eight year ban, rather than a lifetime ban. Gatlin appealed the suspension and it was eventually reduced to four years.

Thus Gatlin returned to competition in 2010. All this time, Gatlin has not apologized for any of his actions nor admitted to any wrongdoing. He has carried on as if nothing happened. Which has only increased the dislike for him by fans of the sport. There is also a strong feeling among experts and scientists that once an athlete uses performance enhancing drugs, their physiology is changed and the performance enhancing benefits will last beyond the time the drug was taken. That’s the rationale for lifetime bans on even a first or minor offense.

That’s the man that won Bolt’s last race. That’s the man the London crowd has been booing non-stop. That’s why this was the worst case scenario for track & field.

The end of the Bolt era_embracing GatlinAfter the race, the crowd was stunned and didn’t know what to do. They booed Gatlin. They cheered with appreciation for Bolt. Bolt, showing class and sportsmanship in defeat, a situation he has not often faced, embraced Gatlin. Bolt took a somewhat subdued farewell lap, waving and thanking the fans. He was interviewed on the stadium big screen, where he showed nothing but class. Gatlin did not take a victory lap and was not interviewed on the stadium big screen. The medal ceremony has not happened yet. I have to wonder what will happen when it does.

The end of the Bolt era_waving goodbye

Thus, on the same night that four athletes received re-allocated medals from previous World Championships due to doping disqualifications, a person that most track fans consider a two-time drug cheat, won what was perhaps the most anticipated and watched race of all-time. Track & field has created this situation by not coming down on drug cheats as strongly as many call for. And so now they have to live with these results – Gatlin winning the race and no signature farewell moment for Bolt.

The Summer of Doping (2006)

First part of this article written in August 4, 2006:


Oversight Agencies

WADA is the World Anti-Doping Drug Agency.  WADA was officially established in 1999 and one of its main stakeholders is the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  The purpose of WADA is to promote and coordinate the fight against doping in sport internationally.  WADA has written an Anti-Doping Code to harmonize regulations regarding anti-doping in sport across all sports and all countries of the world. The Code provides a framework for anti-doping policies, rules, and regulations for sport organizations and public authorities. Before WADA, definitions, policies, and sanctions varied from sport to sport and country to country.  There was often confusion and inconsistency with the drug tests themselves and enforcement.  Having a neutral third party to oversee all this allowed/forced federations to all follow the same standards (and not make decisions that are in their sport’s/nation’s best interests or for financial reasons).  Dick Pound is president of WADA.


IAAF is the International Association of Athletics Federations.  They are the international governing body of track & field.  Lamine Diack is the president.


UCI is the International Cycling Union.  They are the international governing body of cycling.  Pat McQuaid is the president.


WADA does not have direct jurisdiction over those sports/federations.  But they make recommendations and set policies.  Because WADA works with the IOC, federations that do not follow through with WADA’s World Anti-Doping Code are reported to the IOC.  The IOC has jurisdiction to impose sanctions.  Sports risk losing their Olympic status if they do not adopt and implement the WADA Code.  Also, WADA has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport when federations do not follow the WADA Code.


Drug Tests

– The first stage of a drug test measures the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E ratio).  Greater than 4:1 constitutes a doping violation.  Normal is between 1:1 and 2:1.

– The second test is carbon isotope (CIR) analysis, which detects the presence of synthetic testosterone.  This test is necessary because substances like “the clear” and “the cream” that came to light during the BALCO investigations, can mask a raised testosterone level by keeping the T/E ratio at legal limits.

– This is all on the A sample.  Athletes are alerted of a positive A sample and have 5 business days to request that the B sample be tested.


Floyd Landis

– Landis’ failed drug test came on July 20 after Stage 17 (the stage where he vaulted back into contention moving from 11th (8:08 back) to 3rd (:30 back).

– His A sample was 11:1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (>4:1 constitutes a doping violation).

– He was told of this test on July 26.

– Landis initially claimed that his high T/E ratio was due to abnormally high levels of naturally produced testosterone in his body.  He also made some jokes about drinking beer the night before Stage 17.  And there was also some speculation from his doctor (Dr. Brent Kay) that a thyroid condition and/or cortisol shots for his degenerative hip problem could have been a cause for the positive test.

– It is now reported that the A sample was positive for synthetic testosterone.  This contradicts Landis’ claim about naturally produced testosterone and other possible explanations.

– Landis officially requested that his B sample be tested on July 31.

– Results of this test are expected to be known around Aug 5-6.

– A positive drug test means a 2 year ban for Landis and he would also become the first person to be stripped of their Tour de France victory. 

– Of note, word of his positive test from the A sample was only supposed to be communicated to Landis, his team, UCI and other appropriate governing bodies.  Word leaked to the press and then Landis was AWOL for a short time (skipping a race and an appearance on Leno as well as other appearances that would have earned him some money).  Team Phonak then released a statement saying Landis failed a drug test.

– There is some speculation (again from Dr. Kay) that testosterone would not have given him a competitive advantage at that point in the Tour because it builds muscle mass, which cyclists don’t want.  Dr. Kay suggests, therefore, that there is no way Landis would have taken testosterone and thus the test is not accurate.  However other experts have suggested that testosterone, being anabolic, would help muscles recover/re-build after strenuous work (such as Stage 16 when Landis hit the wall and went from 1st (:10 ahead) to 11th (8:08 back).  So it is not as improbable as Dr. Kay suggests that he used some form of testosterone before Stage 17.


Justin Gatlin – 100 meter sprinter/doper?

– Gatlin’s failed drug test came April 22 at the Kansas Relays.
– Note: He ran the world record setting 9.77 for the 100 meters on May 12, 2006.

– His A sample apparently went straight to the 2nd test (CIR) and it was found to contain synthetic testosterone.

– Apparently his B sample has been tested already and it, too, came back positive.

– Gatlin’s coach is Trevor Graham (see more on Graham below). 

– Gatlin is subject to a lifetime ban if found guilty because he had an earlier “drug incident” in 2001.  In 2001 the stimulant (amphetamine) was found on a drug test.  Gatlin was suspended but that suspension was overturned when it was later found that the amphetamine could be attributed to a medicine he takes for attention deficit disorder (ADD).  He was informed at that time that any subsequent positive drug test would be treated as a second offense.

– Should he be found guilty, he would likely lose a share of the world record (since it was after the failed test) but not his medals or titles from the 2004 Olympics (100 gold) or 2005 World Championships (100 & 200 gold), which occurred before the positive drug test.

– There is some latitude in punishment in the case of sabotage but nonetheless, the rules hold athletes accountable for any substance found in their bodies regardless of how it got there.

– The IAAF has said it will sanction Gatlin if the USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency), which oversees drug tests in the US, find Gatlin guilty.  Gatlin is currently appealing to the USADA.  The first round of appeal involves Gatlin submitting evidence (documents) showing it was sabotage.  That evidence will be reviewed and ruled upon.  If he wants, Gatlin can appeal that decision and initiate a hearing that will involve live testimony.  


Trevor Graham – the coach

– Graham is linked to numerous other athletes who have been accused or busted for drug doping.  At least 10 of his athletes have tested positive on a drug test over the last 8 years.  Graham is rumored to be the one who anonymously submitted the syringe to officials with “the clear” that started the whole BACLO investigation.  Some say he had personal motives for submitting the syringe and it was not done for the good of the sport.

– On Thur. Aug 3, the US Olympic Committee banned Graham from using all their training centers and sites.  This followed an announcement from the Berlin Golden League Meet that all 9 Graham-coached athletes would not be allowed to compete in the meet next month.  Marion Jones was also “dis-invited”.  Numerous athletes have been affected who have never failed a drug test purely because of their association with Graham. 

– Graham claims Gatlin was sabotaged by a massage therapist (Chris Whetstine, see more on him below) who deliberately rubbed a cream containing testosterone and that would yield a positive drug test during a post-race massage at the Kansas Relays.  Graham suggests Whetstine was bitter over being fired (although he was subsequently re-hired).  Whetstine denies any involvement.  Gatlin and his lawyers are neither denying or confirming Graham’s claim.   


John Whetstine – the massage therapist

– Whetstine background: Works as a contract provider for Nike, which means he is paid by Nike to do massage therapy work on Nike-sponsored athletes (of which, Gatlin is one).  It’s reported that Graham and Whetstine have argued over a variety of things with Graham twice firing him.  But for some reason Graham decided to use him again. 

– A 2001 Sports Illustrated for Women story said Whetstine was Marion Jones’ massage therapist.  Jones, of course, is involved in the BALCO scandal. 

– Whetstine’s record includes a 36 month probation in 1993 for “delivery of a controlled substance”.  Whetstine’s lawyer, Elizabeth Baker, says the controlled substance was marijuana. 

– Also, Whetstine was disciplined by the Oregon Board of Licensed Massage Therapists in 2003 for “engaging in conduct that could endanger the health or safety of a client or the public.”  The subsequent investigation found that he was using chiropractice and “muscle energy” techniques that he was not licensed to perform.  He was placed on a 6 month supervised probation and he had to pay for the supervision.

– In another weird twist, Whetstine is currently recovering from a concussion, broken nose, hand ligament, and other injuries suffered when he was assaulted on June 22 outside the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis during the USATF Championships.  Police say the prime suspect in this assault is Llewellyn Sparks, an agent who has worked with Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery (both connected to the BALCO scandal).



This part added August 7, 2006:


Justin Gatlin (cont.)

– In early June, Gatlin acknowledged the contradiction of he being outspoken against drugs but his coach, Trevor Graham, being linked to several doping incidents.  Gatlin agreed he would be labeled a huge hypocrite should he be ever found positive for drugs. Ironically his quote at the time was, “Yeah, my head’s on the chopping block.”

– USATF executive director Craig Masbeck has said, “It’s a grave situation. It’s a positive lab test for an athlete that has spoken clearly on the need to compete with integrity and without drugs.”

– Rumor has it that USATF asked Gatlin to withdraw from the USA National Championships in June.  That meet started June 21.  At the time, Gatlin’s B sample had yet to be tested so technically USATF did not have the jurisdiction to ban him from the meet (a meet incidentally that was using Gatlin’s likeness on numerous promotional posters and ads).  In any case, Gatlin did compete and won the 100 meters.

– Gatlin’s mother denies that Gatlin was asked to withdraw from the USA National Championships.  She does say that Gatlin signed a waiver with USATF not to compete after the positive B sample.

– Graham is now specifically recounting an episode at the Kansas Relays.  After Gatlin ran a relay leg, massage therapist John Whetstine insisted on working on Gatlin before Gatlin went in for his drug test.  Graham’s claims to have seen Whestine use a suspicious looking tube with a crooked S on it.  Graham also now says it was unusual for Gatlin to need that kind of attention since he was not nursing an injury or had to recover quickly for another meet.

– Two things that seem to contradict this whole story are: 1. Would the testosterone from this massage show up minutes later in his drug test?; 2. Graham and Gatlin would have been told of the positive drug test within 2-6 weeks of Apr. 22 (so by June 3 at least), so if they suspected Whetstine as the culprit, why would they let him work on Gatlin at the USA Championships, June 21-25.

– There some speculation that Gatlin should accept this positive drug test but try to get his 2001 case reversed and thus only have to serve a 2 year ban right now (instead of the lifetime ban).

– Graham’s attorney, Joe Zeszotarski, said he will be releasing a statement on behalf of Graham on either Aug. 7 or 8.


Floyd Landis (cont.)

– On Sat. Aug. 5, Landis’ B sample came back positive. 

– His Swiss-based team, Phonak, immediately fired him for violations of their Code of Ethics.

– The Tour de France director, Christian Prudhomme, said Landis is no longer considered the champion.  He said runner-up Oscar Pereiro would be the likely new winner. 

–  However, the final decision to strip Landis of the title lies with the UCI.  UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest said Landis would officially remain Tour champion pending any appeals.  Landis is expected to appeal to the USADA (which is the same thing Gatlin is currently doing).


Anti-Doping In General

– There has also been some recent talk that the best solution to the current doping issue is to get corporate sponsors (i.e. shoe companies) to join the battle.  The rest of this paragraph is editorial based on some things I’ve read.  Think about it, who has the power and financial backing to really take a stand?  How about Nike?  If Nike pulled financial support to coaches and athletes who are barred for doping violations, maybe things would change.  Instead, Nike just changes their latest promotional poster and goes looking for the next athlete to market and help them sell shoes.  It’s in Nike’s best interests that their athletes have success (use performance enhancers à set records/win gold medals à more shoe sales) and not get caught (no bad publicity).  This revelation makes one ponder how involved a company like Nike is with the performance enhancing drugs.  Not only are shoe companies, at this point, not part of the solution, maybe they’re part of the problem.

– A recent legal ruling in Europe could have an affect on the anti-doping scene.  Two swimmers, David Meca-Medina of Spain and Igor Majcen of Slovenia, recently scored a partial success at the European Court of Justice.  Both swimmers tested positive for nandrolone at a World Cup event in 1999 and were banned.  But they argued that the IOC’s anti-doping rules – which applied in the days before WADA – unfairly stripped them of their freedom to compete.  They claimed that the anti-doping rules contravened Article 81 of the European Community Treaty, which bans anti-competitive agreements and practices.  Their claim was dismissed by the Court of First Instance (CFI), but they took it to the European Court of Justice, which determined that sporting cases do fall within the scope of Article 81.  Put another way, the court decreed that the rules on doping in sport are not exempt from EU laws on competition and freedom to provide services (i.e. it’s your civil right in Europe to cheat).  The ruling, according to some lawyers, leaves certain cases open to being challenged, and therefore threatens to undermine the principal aim of WADA, which is to implement a universal Anti-Doping Code applicable throughout the world, across all sports, with an agreed list of banned products and standard framework for dealing with transgressors.

– Another interesting side note to all of this is Soccer (aka Futbul).  The Federation International de Futbul Association (FIFA) was the last Olympic sport governing body to agree to the WADA Code.  They signed it just prior to the World Cup.  FIFA’s resistance was that they wanted more flexibility to apply anti-doping rules on a case-by-case basis, something that WADA’s code does not allow them to do to their liking.