Controversial track and field superstar Justin Gatlin is facing a new doping probe after members of his team allegedly offered to supply performance-enhancing drugs to undercover journalists.
The American 100m sprinter is set to be investigated by the Athletics Integrity Unit after members of his entourage were said to have offered to smuggle prescription testosterone and a human-growth hormone acquired under a false name to the US.
Gatlin – who was banned for doping in 2001 and again in 2006 – was booed by spectators in August of this year after edging fan favorite Usain Bolt in the 100m World Athletics Championship. For Bolt, the reigning 100m record holder, it was the final race of his historic career.
Undercover reporters for The Telegraph in London claim they were offered the service for $250,000 (£187,000) by former Olympic gold medalist Dennis Mitchell, the 35-year-old Gatlin’s coach, and track and field agent Robert Wagner. The banned substances were allegedly to be provided by a doctor in Austria.
The journalists posed as representatives of a film company wanting to make a sports film who were looking for a coach to train their star to look like an athlete.
Mitchell and Wagner are said to have claimed that the use of banned substances in athletics is still widespread – with the agent even saying that Gatlin himself had been taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Gatlin has strongly denied the allegations and lawyers for the sprinter announced on Monday night that he had fired his coach. He also revealed over five years’ worth of drug tests to show he ‘never tested positive for any banned substance.’
A spokesman for Gatlin told MailOnline: ‘Justin has gone through a litany of allegations before and this isn’t anything he’s got himself involved in.’
In a message posted on his Instagram account Gatlin wrote: ‘I am not using and have not used PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs).
‘I was shocked and surprised to learn that my coach would have anything to do with even the appearance of these current accusations. I fired him as soon as I found out about this.
‘All legal options are on the table and I will not allow others to lie about me like this. I have no further comments as it is now a legal matter. They will next hear from my lawyer.’
He added: ‘Thank you all my supporters and well-wishers.’
Gatlin’s reputation tarnished his gold medal at the London Stadium on what was meant to be Bolt’s emotional farewell to the sport in the eyes of some fans. Some even suggested he should not have been allowed to compete, given his history with performance enhancing drugs.
Since returning to the track after a four-year ban in 2010, Gatlin has claimed to be clean and has offered to release data from tests in the past five years.
Lord Coe, the IAAF president, said: ‘These allegations are extremely serious and I know the independent Athletics Integrity Unit will investigate in accordance with its mandate.’
The US Anti-Doping Agency told The Telegraph: ‘Investigations stemming from tips and whistleblowers play a critical role in anti-doping efforts.’
The Telegraph’s investigation began in July when regulators failed to take any action after it was revealed that agents and trainers had allegedly been supplying performance enhancing drugs to athletes.
Wagner – who had only worked with Gatlin a few times, according to the sprinter’s longtime agent, Renaldo Nehemiah – was one of the individuals identified as supplying performance enhancing drugs.
The reporters claimed to be production company employees working on a track and field film. They told Wagner that they wanted to find someone to train the lead actor so that he could be in shape for production.
Wagner reportedly named several high-profile people who he said would be willing to cooperate with the plan. However, he claimed he informed the IAAF integrity unit about the conversation with undercover reporters in November.
‘I wasn’t involved in doping,’ he said. ‘Obviously I played along because I knew what was going on. I had to get them hooked.’
Wagner also claimed that he only told the undercover reporters about colleagues obtaining banned substances to ‘get the job,’ referring to the fictitious film.
Wagner denied knowing about Gatlin’s alleged use of performance enhancing drugs: ‘I am not Justin Gatlin’s agent, how would I know that?’
The sportswriter-turned-agent reportedly bragged about representing Ben Johnson, the scandalized Canadian sprinter who was stripped of a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics after it was reveal that his urine sample tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
A Brooklyn-native who once flirted with the idea of joining the NFL, Gatlin ran the 100m dash in 9.80 seconds during the 2012 US Olympic Trials – the fastest time ever by anyone over the age of 30.
At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games Gatlin became the oldest man to win an Olympic in a non-relay sport when he finished second to Bolt in the 100m dash.