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Monday, July 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Track and Field: Gatlin's coach blames masseuse

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin unwittingly had testosterone cream massaged into his legs by a masseuse who carried a grudge against him before the April race at which he tested positive for banned substances, Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, said Sunday.

Graham said Gatlin, who faces a lifetime ban from the sport for the positive test, thought the cream was a harmless lotion. Graham said when he walked in on the massage session, the masseuse hurriedly stuffed a white jar of the substance in his pocket.

Graham declined to name the masseuse, saying he did not want to jeopardize the case.

"We know who the person is who actually did this," Graham said by phone from Raleigh, N.C., home base of his Sprint Capitol team. "Justin is devastated. Myself, too. We're extremely [upset] right now. We are trying to go out and make sure we can prove his innocence, and we hope this individual has the guts to come forward and say he did it."

Gatlin's lawyer, Cameron Myler, declined to confirm Graham's account Sunday but said Gatlin intended to prove he was not responsible for the positive test.

World Anti-Doping Agency rules allow some latitude in the punishment of positive tests that involve special circumstances, but the rules hold athletes accountable for any substance found in their bodies regardless of how it got there.

In a statement Sunday, the world governing body of track and field (IAAF) said it would ban Gatlin from track and field for life if the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency confirms the violation.

The 24-year-old Gatlin, the reigning Olympic champion in the 100 meters, shares the world record of 9.77 seconds in the event with Asafa Powell of Jamaica.

Gatlin's positive test came at the Kansas Relays on April 22 in Lawrence.

Graham said Gatlin's positive showed a small amount of synthetic testosterone or its precursors, so no natural explanation can be offered for it.

Because Gatlin tested positive in 2001 for a stimulant found in his prescription medicine for attention-deficit disorder, he faces a lifetime ban rather than a typical two-year ban for a first-time doping offense for testosterone.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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