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Justin Gatlin and the question that remains

Roar Guru
10th June, 2013
10

The surprise defeat of Usain Bolt by Justin Gatlin last week in Rome put athletics in the news bulletins for a moment, but the result perhaps needs to be examined further with a much bigger story behind the scenes.

While every athlete and sports person is not invincible and Bolt’s training has been limited in the indoor season due to injury, if it was a defeat by anyone else, it may have gone under the radar.

The 2004 Olympic 100-metre champion Gatlin was handed a four-year ban after testing positive to testosterone in 2006.

As it was Gatlin’s second offense, he was lucky to escape with the four years and not a life ban, as per the usual procedure for second offenses as Ben Johnson can testify.

The IAAF mandatory bans for a first offense is two years and well within the ability of most athletes to return after such a time away from the track.

A serious injury can keep an athlete off the track for that amount of time and certainly is not a fait accompli that it is career ending, but for Gatlin, to return after four years was a surprise to many.

Now Gatlin has been given the benefit of the doubt as he has served his time and hence is allowed to compete openly on the world circuit.

However, the IAAF ban is only for competing so an athlete is still permitted to train while serving their time and are not subject to the random, out of competition, testing regimes that active athletes are.

The question could be posed to what is to stop any athlete continuing to train using all the same previous methods without any threat of being tested? The athlete, like Gatlin, need only cease any substance use when returning to competition.

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It is speculative but even if Gatlin did not continue using performance enhancers while serving his ban, the physical gains he enjoyed from the substances, that being additional muscle mass and strength, could easily still be maintained through diet and training techniques.

So, in essence, when he returned to competition in 2012, it could be argued he was still enjoying the same fraudulent advantage.

With Bolt’s slow start to the season slump and Tyson Gay and Gatlin posting serious challenges it augers well for a fascinating lead up to the world championships in Moscow in August.