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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Steve Cram on Gatlin
Steve Cram
By Steve Cram
BBC Sport commentator

I suspect we have seen the last of Justin Gatlin as an athlete but hopefully we have not heard the last of him.

A lot of people will say the Olympic and world 100m champion should be banned for life after failing a second drugs test, this time for testosterone.

Justin Gatlin in action at the USA championships in June
Gatlin may have run his last run after two positive drugs tests

But I have no problem with him being shown some lenience if he has proof against those who are systematically involved in drugs use - and is prepared to spill the beans.

As it stands, Gatlin could be banned for up to eight years but will plead "exceptional circumstances" to try and get it reduced.

I cannot see Gatlin being offered a sentence which allows him to come back and compete again because that would send out completely the wrong message.

If it was reduced to six years he would return aged 30, but I cannot see him going away and training for that length of time.

A four-year ban would simply not be enough for a second sentence even with plea bargaining.

Gatlin could strike a deal with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) by blowing the whistle on those around him who may have been responsible for the positive test.

Catching the athlete is only the tip of the iceberg.

The whole Balco episode showed there are an awful lot of people involved in administering drugs to an athlete.

We will never stop athletes taking drugs by simply banning those who get caught.

There must be a more systematic approach that answers where athletes get drugs from, where are the camps who regularly use them, who are the suppliers, who are the doctors, clinics and coaches involved?

Up until now we have not paid attention to all of those factors.

Controversial coach Trevor Graham
Graham exposed the Balco scandal but is he implicated in drugs use too?

Trevor Graham - Gatlin's coach - has a well-catalogued history. There are at least 10 athletes who operated under him and went on to have positive drugs tests.

For every athlete you catch there is usually a coach or manager who is encouraging 10, 15 or 20 more athletes to do it too.

If you take that person out of the equation then you are lessening the chance of more athletes being involved in drugs.

When Dwain Chambers admitted to his long-term drugs use he did not tell us exactly who and where - and Gatlin has a chance to reveal more.

However, if Gatlin were to reveal he had been working with people for the last three or four years, as Chambers did, then he stands to lose his Olympic and world titles.

He has to make the decision on just what he is prepared to lose. It is not just a future ban that is at stake for Gatlin, but what he wants to admit to.

It has almost got to the stage now where sprinters have to prove they are not taking something

Unfortunately, people have already lost faith in sprinters.

Gatlin's positive test did not come as a surprise because there is a hint of cynicism aimed at anyone who runs 100m world records these days.

Sprinters historically take steroids to build up their muscle, power and bulk and stimulants to improve their race reactions.

EPO has recently been combined with these to enable them to train even harder.

All this makes it difficult to judge world record holder Asafa Powell, who has not failed a drugs test in his career.

He looks the genuine article but his performances are so far above what anyone else has been able to achieve - and those who got close like Gatlin and Tim Montgomery have been exposed as drug cheats.

There are supreme athletes but it has almost got to the stage now where sprinters have to prove they are not taking something, and it shouldn't be that way.

SEE ALSO
Guilty Gatlin cuts deal over ban
22 Aug 06 |  Athletics
Jones 'shocked' by positive test
21 Aug 06 |  Athletics
Gatlin admits failing drugs test
29 Jul 06 |  Athletics


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