Justin Gatlin has once again found himself linked to a drug scandal. An investigation carried out by The Telegraph has captured video footage of members of his team offering to supply performance-enhancing drugs. The 100m world champion, along with his agent and coach, are now being investigated further by authorities keen to get to the bottom of the matter.
Undercover reporters met with Gatlin’s athletics agent, Robert Wagner, at the American’s training camp in Florida, where Wagner offered to supply and administer testosterone and human growth hormones (HGH) for a fictitious actor allegedly training for a film.
The investigation showed Wagner and Mitchell’s seemingly extensive knowledge of the drugs, with Wagner describing them as their “field of expertise – 100 per cent” and both made claims about how widespread they believe doping is in the sport.
The controversial statements have predominantly come from Gatlin’s agent. Wagner explained how taking HGH allows the body to burn weight five times quicker than normal and suggests both testosterone and HGH could help the actor get into shape quickly. He also claimed he could acquire the products in his name via a doctor who had previously supplied the products to him personally. Wagner spoke openly about his own personal use of the drug as an “anti-ageing” product in the video.
Wagner boasted that “everybody does it” as he claimed “this is what track and field is about…you think Justin is not doing this? Do you think Dennis wasn’t doing this?”
However, Mitchell said in a witness statement provided by Gatlin’s lawyers that none of his current athletes were using banned substances and denied Wagner’s allegations, saying it was “false” that Gatlin was taking drugs.
Moreover, Gatlin himself denies using performance enhancing drugs. In a statement on social media, the sprinter says “I am not using and have not used” banned substances and that he was “shocked and surprised to learn that my coach would have anything to do with even the appearance of these current accusations”. This statement has followed the announcement that Gatlin has sacked Mitchell, following Mitchell’s involvement in the footage, as well as revealing more than five years’ worth of official drugs tests in order to try and proclaim his innocence.
Wagner later argued “I wasn’t involved in doping…obviously I played along because I knew what was going on…I had to get them hooked.” When asked about claims that his colleagues used banned substances, he said “I told her (the undercover reporter) that to get the job.” He denied that he knew of Gatlin’s use of performance-enhancing drugs, saying “I am not Justin Gatlin’s agent, how would I know that?”
When it was pointed out he had facilitated a meeting with the runner, he said: “She (the reporter) wanted to hear that because she wanted to get the job.” Nevertheless, the claims made by Wagner and Mitchell about the ever-increasing innovation in drug manufacturing has cast a dark shadow over the sport, implying the scale of doping in some circles could be greater than already thought. At the very least, questions are raised about the effectiveness of drug tests.
In the investigation, Mitchell spoke about “tailored drugs”, supposedly how scientists subtly change a steroids chemical profile to continuously develop drugs that improve performance without showing up in tests. Mitchell explained, “right, well you know a DNA strain has all kinds of chemicals connected to it. They pull one out, put something else in. Now it is totally different. So that’s a tailored kind of drug, the only problem with that is you don’t know what it gives you on the other end as the side effects.“
Wagner also commented on how those making drugs are always ahead of the authorities that are trying to catch them out. “Even if you mix two products, it’s over, you cannot find it. Next thing is, that test has to hold in a court.” He said that if an agency attempted to prosecute and it didn’t hold up, they could be sued for “millions” by that athlete. He continued, “by the time they have a test, people are already using the next, next generation,”.
What he claims is that drug manufacturers are constantly creating new products, so that by the time authorities have found a formula to catch out cheats, they are already onto the next product, making it virtually impossible to catch anybody. This could mean some ‘clean’ drug tests may not be as clean as they suggest.
Breaks my heart reading “It’s easy to cheat a doping test.”
Knowing I stand for clean and fair sports. üò¢üò¢
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) December 19, 2017
A spokesman for the Athletics Integrity Unit discussed how tailored drugs had “always been a challenge”, whilst the US Anti-Doping Agency made the point that drug tests cannot be solely relied upon to catch cheats, with investigations stemming from tips playing a crucial role as well.