Travis Tygart

A theater-of-the-absurd hearing in Congress

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You know what was missing from Tuesday’s theater-of-the-absurd hearing in Congress on what was billed as “ways to improve and strengthen the international anti-doping system?”

Besides, you know, a big check or a ready-to-implement action plan aimed at improving and strengthening the international anti-doping system?

This hearing had nothing to do with either of those things, really. Nothing at all.

It was an excuse for the fine ladies and gentlemen representing various districts of Congress to take pictures with the likes of Michael Phelps and Adam Nelson — gee, who could have predicted that? — and, more to the point, play to the C-SPAN cameras while bashing Russia and touting truth, justice and the American way.

All the while coming off like the camera-seeking hypocrites that skeptics might suggest they are.

Representative Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon: “Now you’re going to give us confidence that … U.S. athletes, who play by the rules, can compete against other athletes who play by the rules?”

“Thank you,” a smiling Representative Kathy Castor of Florida, a Democrat, told Travis Tygart, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive, “for having the intestinal fortitude to stand up for our athletes and clean competition around the world.”

Oh! So that’s what this was about!

“Our” athletes, not “ways to improve and strengthen the international anti-doping system”?

Who woulda thunk?

There were so many choice moments during this nearly 150-minute paean to America the beautiful before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee (whew).

It was so stirring you might well have expected all in attendance to brandish special cereal-box Captain America power shields if, say, Ivan Drago had bolted into Room 2123 of the Rayburn Building to announce that, of course, he was there to break each and every one of them.

Maybe the best moment, however, was when Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, clearly reading from notes prepared for him, misspoke and referred to the “bobsled and skeletal federation.”

It’s “skeleton.”

There’s so much wrong with Congress having hearings on an issue the elected ladies and gentlemen know virtually nothing about and, more to the point, can’t and aren’t going to do anything about.

But Mr. Pallone’s glitch is altogether so revealing.

So, too, the rhetoric, which in an effort to make one point simply proved the other.

“It starts with the athletes. They own the culture of sport,” Tygart asserted.

“And it’s wonderful — it’s sad it took this scandal to mobilize them in the way that it has but it’s wonderful that they’re now mobilizing and realizing how important this right is to them. They also have to have confidence in the system.”

You'd think it was 1984 all over again, and Marty McFly had just parked his DeLorean on Capitol Hill with the cassette tape blasting Bruce Springsteeen's "No Surrender," or something.

Soviets? Russians? Which? Whatever.

Oh. Still us and them. Got it.

But wait, just to put what Tygart said in some context:

Phelps said he didn’t believe he had ever competed internationally in a totally clean event. Nelson, too.

So what is the only reasonable, logical deduction about the so-called “culture of sport”? The brutal truth?

Athletes all over the world cheat, and if they can get away with it, they damn sure will.

Why?

Because, again, logic:

Illicit performance-enhancing drugs work.

Following that to the stark conclusion:

For many athletes in whatever country — and don’t be fooled, the United States has produced some whopping world-class cheaters — the risk-reward ratio makes for an easy tilt.

Indeed, if you were in the Russian Duma, following Tuesday’s spectacle in Congress, why wouldn’t you hold a hearing in which you splashed pictures on a really big screen and howled in laughter at Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, Marion Jones and scads of baseball stars?

In the background, you could work up a digital sampling loop of Mr. Walden from Oregon saying, “U.S. athletes, who play by the rules …”

Oh, again — in Russia the defining difference is, according to the second of the 2016 reports produced by the Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, “institutional control”?

All that does is point up what happens when you have a federal sport ministry, like they do virtually everywhere else, and when you don’t, as is the case in the United States.

Here, we do our cheating red, white and blue capitalist-style:

To quote Ivan Drago's movie wife, the equally awesome Ludmilla, dismissing allegations that her husband could have used steroids: "He is like your Popeye. He eats his spinach every day!"

Just to underscore the raging hypocrisy of Tuesday’s hearing:

Dial the history books back to 2012, a couple of months before USADA tagged Mr. Armstrong.

That summer, a longtime Wisconsin Republican congressman, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, sent a letter to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the funnel for significant USADA funding, declaring, “USADA’s authority over Armstrong is strained at best.”

Also included were even more laff-out-loud party lines:

“Armstrong, however, has never failed a drug test despite having been tested over 500 times.”

“As attorneys for Armstrong asserted, ‘USADA has created a kangaroo court … ‘ “

“The actions against Armstrong come in the midst of inconsistent treatment against athletes.”

Mr. Sensenbrenner, still a member of Congress, was at the time the chair — he still sits on — the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security. That panel held jurisdiction over ONDCP. Moreover, Mr. Sensenbrenner’s district is home to the then-longtime Armstrong sponsor, Trek Bicycles.

Big picture take-away from Tuesday’s event:

The anti-doping campaign is not easily reduced to sound bites and headlines.

It’s complicated.

Making any sort of real progress is going to take way less rhetoric, far more cooperation and considerably more cash.

This field is simply not susceptible to Tuesday's display of red, white and blue.

Or, more to the point, black and white. It’s a lot of grey.

— Russia bad, Russia bad, Russia bad. Got it, Congress.

Over the weekend, the International Olympic Committee, citing a Feb. 21 WADA meeting, sent out a letter referring to the pair of McLaren’s 2016 reports, from December and July, acknowledging that “in many cases the evidence provided may not be sufficient to bring successful cases.”

So even if Russia bad — it is at the core of the notions of truth, justice and the American way that each and every person is afforded the chance to test any and all evidence the authorities say they hold.

If it’s “not sufficient,” you’re free to go. In this context, to compete.

Same deal for Russians, for Americans, for whoever.

As Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical director, put it in the statement he submitted Tuesday to Congress, “In accordance with the principles of individual justice, clean athletes should not be sanctioned or punished for the failures of others.”

— Tygart: “If you continue to have sport overseeing investigations, determining compliance, acting as a global regulator of itself, it’s no different than the current status quo, which is the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Tygart’s argument holds intuitive appeal. Moreover, he knows full well that a good many people don’t understand the anti-doping landscape, laced with science, law, politics and diplomacy, so they rely on him — indisputably an expert — to lay out for them in easy-to-follow terms (fox, henhouse) what might seem most constructive.

Fair enough.

At the same time, it’s far from crystal clear that “sport” ought to go anywhere.

Governance is rooted not just in structure but in culture. Eight years ago, the USOC tried to separate the two, when Stephanie Streeter, who had no significant “sport” experience, was named chief executive. She lasted all of a year, resigning amid a 40-0 no confidence vote from the American national governing bodies — that is, from sport.

Culture matters, a lot, and it’s also a fair argument that the anti-doping machinery ought not take significant dollars from sport while churlishly then banishing any and all goodwill, good faith and experience that comes with those dollars to the penalty box.

That’s called rude and ungrateful, and no system can sustain itself like that for long.

— WADA’s 2017 annual budget is $29.7 million. The U.S. government is due this year to put up $2.155 million, or 7.3 percent.

That’s way more than any other country puts up.

That’s one way to look at it.

Another view:

There are 206 national Olympic committees. The U.S. Congress thinks it’s entitled to hold hearings when the American government is putting up 7 percent toward an entity because — why?

Is any other parliamentary or legislative body in the world holding such hearings? No. Obvious question: why not?

Ethiopia recently criminalized sports doping. The new head of the country's track and field federation is Haile Gebrselassie, the distance running great. A 22-year-old marathon runner, Girmay Birahun, is now facing at least three years in Ethiopian prison after testing positive for the controversial Latvian heart medication meldonium; Maria Sharapova is due to return to the tennis tour in April after her sport ban for the same substance was cut from 24 months to 15. Ethiopia, where there's a lot to discuss in the anti-doping scene, is due to contribute a grand total of $3,239 to WADA in 2017. Not a typo — $3,239, and already has paid $3,085.

Should Ethiopia hold a hearing? If it did, should WADA and the IOC send representatives, like they did Tuesday to Washington?

Does Mr. Birahun own the "culture of sport"? Or do only western athletes, and in particular Americans?

Yet another view:

The 2016 U.S. federal budget was, ballpark, $4 trillion. Yes, $2 million is real money. But, context: $2 million over $4 trillion equals pretty close to nothing. And Congress is yapping for more than two hours?

“We can have all the governance review in the world. Which we welcome and we want. I have been in this business for 20 years. And it’s time for change. It’s time to put investment into this business,”  Rob Koehler, the WADA deputy director general, said in response to a question from Representative Chris Collins, a Republican from New York.

“If I look globally at the amount of money being put into national anti-doping organizations,” Koehler said, “it’s simply insufficient. There’s the crux of the issue.”

He added a moment later, “Until that happens, we’ll never see change.”

— The U.S. Olympic Committee is giving USADA $4.6 million this year, up 24 percent from $3.7 million the year before.

That’s real investment, and the USOC should be applauded for seeking to effect real change.

— Much was made Tuesday of a WADA-commissioned report from a team of so-called “independent observers” who reported after the Rio Games that 4,125 of the 11,470 athletes on hand may have shown up in Brazil without being tested even once in 2016, 1,913 in the 10 sports deemed most at risk for cheating, among them track and field, swimming and cycling.

The problem with these numbers is that they are both entirely accurate and thoroughly misleading.

Would more testing be helpful? Probably.

But as the Armstrong case proves, being tested — or passing a test — proves absolutely nothing.

As Sensenbrenner, and even Armstrong himself, noted:

https://twitter.com/lancearmstrong/status/71358750434402306

Passing a test does not prove an athlete is clean.

This is a core misconception.

Testing is not, repeat not, a failsafe. To believe otherwise is naive in the extreme.

— In a similar spirit, it’s not unreasonable if Phelps — who has never given any indication that he is anything but an honest champion — might have had to get up at 6:05 in the morning for drug testing.

You say otherwise?

Here is the way the “whereabouts” system, as it is called, works.

It would defeat the entire purpose of out-of-competition testing for an athlete to know exactly when drug testers are coming. At the same time, it would be entirely unreasonable for Athlete X to be on call 24/7. So the system strikes a balance.

Via the sort of paperwork that Phelps noted Tuesday he repeatedly had to fill out, Athlete X makes himself or herself available to drug testers one hour a day.

Whatever 60 minutes that is — it’s his or her choice.

So, for instance, if the tester shows up at 6:05, it’s because on that form Phelps, or whoever, put, say, 6 to 7 a.m.

Phelps, referring to his baby son Boomer in responding Tuesday to Collins, the New York Republican, said, “I don’t know what I would — how I would even talk to my son about doping in sports.

“Like, I would hope to never have that conversation. I hope we can get it cleared, cleaned up by then. For me, going through everything I’ve done, that’s probably a question I could get asked. I don’t know how I would answer.”

Easy:

Just because you’re American doesn’t mean you’re good, just because you’re Russian doesn’t make you bad.

Everybody has temptations. Do the right thing, son, the way mom and I raised you.

In the meantime, it’s up to the grown-ups to make sure the people running, say, the swim meet have enough money to do every part of what they do the right way.

Also, next time mom and dad will tell those people in Washington to find someone else to take pictures with, OK? Like Ashton Kutcher. When he was doing the same sort of thing daddy did on Tuesday, Ashton blew a kiss to John McCain.

The 'Fancy Bear' bid to stir up chaos

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Within hours after the release by Russian hackers of U.S. athletes’ doping results, Victor Conte, the Bay-Area based figure at the center of the BALCO scandal, a guy who knows what’s what when it comes to the doping scene, sent out a note Tuesday to a wide email circle. It said, in part, “This is gonna get ugly.” Gonna get ugly?! This is ugly from the get-go. And it’s likely to stay ugly for the foreseeable future.

WADA officials Olivier Niggli and Craig Reedie at a conference earlier this year in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC's home base // Getty Images

This hack operates on a staggering number of levels. There are so many threads to pull: here, there, seemingly everywhere. The whole thing is designed not just to stir public opinion but to stir up nothing less than chaos in world sport and, perhaps, more — to agitate and antagonize governments in public as well as private diplomacy.

The basics:

Following World Anti-Doping Agency reports over the past several months that asserted widespread and state-sponsored doping in Russia, about a third of the Russian Olympic delegation, including virtually the entire track and field team, and the entire Russian Paralympic squad ended up banned from Rio 2016. The Paralympics are still ongoing.

On Tuesday, WADA confirmed that its database had been breached. At issue: confidential medical records of athletes who took part in last month’s Rio Olympics.

WADA further said that hackers gained access via an International Olympic Committee-created account.

The perpetrators, accordng to WADA: Fancy Bear, a Russian entity suspected as well of breaching the Democratic National Committee’s computers.

On Monday, Fancy Bear released information on four American athletes: the gymnast Simone Biles, basketball standout Elena Delle Donne and the tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.

The documents show that each of the four had permission to take prescription drugs. In some cases, those drugs were used during the Games.

Some of the drugs contained banned substances.

But nobody is facing a doping case.

The reason: the anti-doping rules specifically say that there can be exceptions for certain medicines. Athletes can use a variety of stuff that might otherwise lead to a positive test if, one, they get a doctor’s note and, two, they file the appropriate paperwork.

That paperwork is called, in the jargon, a “therapeutic use exemption.”

To emphasize: there is no suggestion that any of the four have done anything wrong.

U.S. officials have linked Fancy Bear to GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. For what it’s worth, the Russian government said Tuesday it had no connection to Fancy Bear.

This is the backdrop. From there, the super-obvious starting place:

Within Russia if not elsewhere, many will be tempted to draw the conclusion that the Americans, who won the Olympic medals count in Rio going away, are doping.

It is already widely believed that considerable numbers of U.S. athletes take advantage of TUE exemptions.

To stress: obtaining a TUE is within the rules.

It is also the case that, as in many things, perception is as important than reality, if not more so. Indeed, a Fancy Bear statement declares that U.S. athletes “got their licenses for doping.”

Next:

Tension is high between the IOC and WADA over the Russians. This is sure to add to that. To reiterate: the hack came through an IOC-created account. If you want to appreciate the delicious irony there, or maybe the hackers’ knowing instigation, go right ahead — a WADA hack through an IOC account. Who to blame, and for what?

There’s this:

Legally, do any of the four athletes, American citizens all, have recourse in the U.S. or Canadian court systems (WADA is based in Montreal) for money damages now that private medical records have been breached? Who is responsible for not safeguarding the sort of records that everyone knows — if you have ever been to even one American doctor’s office — is supposed to be private? For this sort of breach, what might be an appropriate remedy?

Then there another super-obvious follow-on:

Every single sports federation and national Olympic committee anywhere and everywhere in the world ought to be wondering: is my data safe?

Then there is the timing:

In mid-August, details emerged about the hack of Russian athlete and whistleblower Yulia Stepanova.

Next week WADA plans a post-Rio “think tank” to explore how it is the anti-doping campaign got into this crack, as well as others. Fancy Bear: “We will also disclose exclusive information about other national Olympic teams later.”

But, to start, there’s the central fact: these are Americans.

So why these four? Could it have anything to do with the fact that three are African-American while Delle Donne earlier this month disclosed she is gay and engaged to be married? Maybe these facts mean nothing. Or maybe it's naive to pretend otherwise.

Biles, moreover, carried the U.S. flag in the Rio Olympic closing ceremony.

The Williams sisters? When Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis star, who carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 opening ceremony, is in the midst of a two-year ban for meldonium?

Sharapova’s appeal is due to be decided in early October. And WADA has walked back the rules in a number of other meldonium cases because of uncertainty over how long the stuff, which is made in Latvia and is designed to help patients with certain heart-related issues, stays in the body.

Biles acknowledged after the leak that she takes Ritalin or its equivalent for ADHD. It is "nothing to be ashamed of,” she said in a tweet.

https://twitter.com/Simone_Biles/status/775785767855611905

 

At the same time, it would be a huge surprise if hackers didn’t intend for a parallel to be drawn — and, importantly, distinctions, too — between her and U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin.

Gatlin has — unfairly — been made into the poster guy for U.S. Olympic scene doping. Truth: he is far more a victim of circumstance.

So: Biles takes Ritalin (or, again, its equivalent). Gatlin took Adderall for ADD. It’s naive once more to pretend someone looking for connection would not see something there.

At the same time:

She gets nothing. He got a year. Why the difference? How can any sort of “fair” system allow such discrepancies? Returning to the Sharapova matter and meldonium: same question.

This is not just about American athletes, meanwhile. It’s about the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, too.

USADA chief executive Tygart, who is a very smart guy, has arguably made himself over the course of this year into the loudest and longest voice for an outright Russian ban.

This would thus seem to be as much about an attempt to embarrass Tygart as it is the four athletes.

In a statement, Tygart said, “It’s unthinkable that in the Olympic movement, hackers would illegally obtain confidential medical information in an attempt to smear athletes to make it look as if they have done something wrong.”

Please. It’s not unthinkable. If revenge is a thing, it’s totally rational if not foreseeable.

Finally, this, and this is where you have to really wonder how this is going to end up.

If none of this had come to pass, if WADA had been left alone, WADA — this is the dead-bang truth — can help the Russians.

In the context of getting back onto the track, for instance: what do the Russians want if not need? Answer: to get complaint again with all the rules so that Russian athletes can compete normally.

For its part, WADA wants, maybe even needs, to get the Russians compliant. And as soon as possible.

The tough sell is getting the rest of the world to believe the Russians are compliant.

That just got a lot, lot tougher.

Purposely, door still wide open for Russia

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The most important note from the compelling report released Monday in a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned inquiry into allegations of Russian doping is super-clear and, because of that, all the more striking: there is no recommendation about what, as Lenin might have put it, is to be done.

This means the door has, purposely, been left wide-open for Russian athletes to take part in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. As they should.

To be clear:

The report, produced by respected Canadian law professor and anti-doping expert Richard McLaren, offers evidence that strongly — reiterate, strongly — suggests the involvement of the Russian state in promulgating a program designed to evade anti-doping controls.

Over its 103 pages, the report offers up a narrative of holes in walls, disappearing positives and more.

At the outset of the Toronto news conference at which Richard McLaren delivered his report // WADA

But — and this is the key — the report does not tie specific athletes to specific misconduct. At least yet. Without that, it fails law, ethics, morality and common sense to bar anyone from Rio.

The report also — and this is essential, too — asserts, and repeatedly, that the evidence it is offering up is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

If only that were the case.

Instead, the report is rife with internal contradictions and more that demonstrate in a vivid fashion the glaring conflict in trying to ban anyone on these grounds.

In sum, the McLaren report amounts to a prosecutor’s brief. A solid salvo. He and his team deserve considered respect. And WADA deserves applause for commissioning his inquiry.

Even so:

There has not yet been any sort of cross-examination, in a formal setting under oath, of considerable chunks of the evidence offered up in the report.

Thus calls for bans or more sparked by the McLaren report amount to howling from the mob. Not justice.

The Olympics are better than that.

The Olympics, at the core, are about fair play.

If the argument is that the Russians corrupted that ideal, the response is elemental: two wrongs do not make a right.

Neither the International Olympic Committee's policy-making executive board nor the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport -- both meeting this week to consider the Russians -- are obliged in any way, shape or form to dish out collective responsibility when every principle of fairness calls out for individual adjudication.

WADA, upon the release of the report, put out a statement urging that Olympic authorities “decline entries” from Russia for Rio. WADA is under intense geopolitical pressure. Such a statement is super-cool PR, enabling WADA to play CYA in advance of reviews from the IOC and CAS.

The close reader will also note the disclaimer in the “preamble” to the WADA statement, from president Craig Reedie. WADA, he expressly notes, “does not have the authority or remit in respect of entries to competitions.”

There are now two probable paths ahead:

One, the IOC president, Thomas Bach, has already done a deal in Russia to effect a ban for one Games. This would, among other things, serve as protection for the next major summertime sports event involving the Russians, the 2018 World Cup.

This seems unlikely.

Putin, in a statement put out Monday by the Kremlin, after noting the 1980s-era boycotts led by the United States of the Moscow Games and, then, in reprisal, by the Soviet Union in 1984 in Los Angeles:

“Today, we see a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport. Yes, this intervention takes different forms today, but the essence remains the same; to make sport an instrument for geopolitical pressure and use it to form a negative image of countries and peoples. The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin at an Olympic meeting last October in Moscow // Getty Images

If you're going to ban Russia, you might want to ban Kenya while you're at it. Unlikely? If so, how is it remotely fair to ban Russia?

And this: eight years ago, literally during the 2008 Beijing Games, Russia and Georgia fought a brief war. If neither was kicked out of the Games then, and people were actually dying, the IOC would now take the step of implementing a ban (against Russia) because of -- allegations of doping?

Option Two, and far more likely:

The IOC board meeting Tuesday produces rhetoric but no more. CAS issues its decision later this week, perhaps Thursday. The IOC waits after that to “process” (pick your word) everything that’s going on. Then it waits a little bit more. The next thing you know, the IOC says it really needs more information, the sort McLaren makes plain that he has or has access to but has not yet himself processed and, oh, by the way, it’s now too late — see you in Rio, Russians.

One thing that has not been super-cool: the aggressive push from Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and others in the United States and Canada to keep the Russians out.

Their statement over the weekend, calling for a ban on the Russians, suggested — rightly or wrongly — that the McLaren report had been leaked to Tygart, and others, in advance. It had not.

Everyone gets the right, at least in the United States and Canada, to speak their mind. That’s not the issue. The issue is that actions lead to consequence. And — you can believe — many important and influential people in the broader sports movement are irritated, big time, and at Tygart in particular.

It’s not only that such banging-the-drum has not been helpful. Believe it — again — it actually has intensified the risk of seeing happen the exact opposite of what has been asked for.

You can like Putin, or not. Fear the Russian president. Loathe him. Respect him. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Putin is arguably on the top-three list of most important personalities in the Olympic movement. Putin matters. And Russia matters.

More from Putin in Monday’s statement:

“The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and several anti-doping agencies in other countries, without waiting for the official publication of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s commission, have hastened to demand that the entire Russian team be banned from taking part in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“What is behind this haste? Is it an attempt to create the needed media atmosphere and apply pressure? We have the impression that the USADA experts had access to what is an unpublished report and have set its tone and even its content themselves. If this is the case, one country’s national organization is again trying to dictate its will to the entire world sports community.”

Uh-oh.

Putin goes on to say:

“Russia is well aware of the Olympic movement’s immense significance and constructive force, and shares in full the Olympic movement’s values of mutual respect, solidarity, fairness and the spirit of friendship and cooperation.

“This is the only way to preserve the Olympic family’s unity and ensure international sport’s development in the interest of bringing people and cultures closer together. Russia is open to cooperation on achieving these noble goals.”

Make of that whatever you will. The important thing is that, unprompted, these last two paragraphs also found their way into the Kremlin release.

As Olivier Niggli, the new WADA director general, noted in the agency’s news release: “...senior Russian politicians have started to publicly acknowledge the existnce of longstanding doping practices in Russia, and have conceded that a significant culture change is required.

“The McLaren Report makes it ever more clear that such culture change needs to be cascaded from the very top in order to deliver the necessary reform that clean sport needs.”

That’s going to take time, and money. WADA needs way more than the $26 million a year it gets now, and any number of the roughly 200 nations in the world need to step up big time if the campaign against doping in sports is to become, truly, a priority.

In the meantime, there remains the pressing question: what is to be done?

IOC president Thomas Bach, left, and WADA president Craig Reedie, right, at a meeting last month in Switzerland // Getty Images

Thomas Bach, the IOC president, observed a few days ago in an interview with Associated Press and other wire services:

“It is obvious that you cannot sanction or punish a badminton player for infringement of rules or manipulation by an official or lab director in the Winter Games,” the keen student noting that Reedie is a former badminton champion who went on to be president, in the 1980s, of the international badminton federation.

“What we have to do,” Bach said, “is to take decisions based on facts, and to find the right balance between collective responsibility and individual justice. The right to individual justice applies to every athlete in the world.”

Just to take one of many examples from within the McLaren report:

A graph, page 41, shows the number of “disappearing positives” in various sports.

Russian sport graph

The Russian synchronized swim team is a powerhouse. Is there any mention of synchro on that list? And yet the Russian synchro team should be banned? On what grounds?

Gymastics — where is “gymnastics” on that list? Answer: nowhere.

This is why — shortly after the release of Monday’s report — Bruno Grandi, president of FIG, the international gymnastics federation, put out a statement declaring that clean Russian gymnasts must be allowed to compete in Rio.

He said, ”The rights of every individual athlete must be respected. Participation at the Olympic Games is the highest goal of athletes who often sacrifice their entire youth to this aim. The right to participate at the Games cannot be stolen from an athlete, who has duly qualified and has not be found guilty of doping. Blanket bans have never been and will never be just."

Even McLaren himself, in the report, observes, at page 4, and “IP” in this context refers to McLaren, the “independent person” commissioned by WADA:

“The third paragraph of the IP’s mandate, identifying athletes who benefited from the manipulations, has not been the primary focus of the IP’s work. The IP investigative team has developed evidence identifying dozens of Russian athletes who appear to have been involved in doping. The compressed timeline of the IP investigation did not permit compilation of data to establish an antidoping rule violation. The time limitation required the IP to deem this part of the mandate of lesser priority. The IP concentrated on the other four directives of the mandate.”

Elsewhere, the report asserts, and repeatedly, that evidence rises to meet the law’s most demanding standard, that required for conviction of a criminal case in the United States, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Here, a refresher basic: that is for a jury or a tribunal to decide, not the investigator.

Assume, though, that everything in the report is dead-bang true. It's easy to point a finger at "the Russians." It's a little different to say -- more, to prove -- that Igor, or Sasha, or Svetlana, or whoever had his or her sample swapped. Even if you can prove that, does that mean Igor or Sasha was doping? Did he or she know the sample was being swapped?

At page 87 of the report, McLaren notes, "The Moscow Laboratory personnel did not have a choice in whether to be involved in the State-directed system."

By the same logic, did athletes in this system have a "choice" in alleged use of illicit performance-enhancing substances? The report, page 49, details the concoction of a doping cocktail -- the Russians called it "the Duchess" -- that consisted of the steroids oral-turinabol, oxandrolone and methasterone. These were dissolved in alcohol -- Chivas for the men, vermouth for the women -- and swished around the mouth for ready absorption.

It doesn't take much imagination to conjure up a situation in which a Russian coach approaches Igor, Sasha, whoever with a glass of the Duchess and says, more or less, "This is your treatment." In such a situation, would an individual athlete feel he or she had the "choice" to say no?

For sure, whatever is in the system is an athlete's responsibility. This is a fundamental premise of the anti-doping rules. But the rules also now expressly acknowledge that intent to cheat -- or not -- matters, too.

As for further specifics that cut to the credibility of what's at issue:

McLaren “did not seek to interview persons living within the Russian Federation. This includes government officials,” page 8. So the report is deliberately one-sided?

“I am aware,” McLaren writes at page 21 in reference to the principle witness, Dr. Gregoriy Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow lab, “that there are allegations made against him by various persons and institutional representatives. While that might impinge on his credibility in a broader context, I do not find that it does so in respect of this report.”

Of course broader allegations might significantly impinge on Rodchenkov’s credibility. That’s another basic. Putin goes on for an entire paragraph in his statement about such allegations. Yet these assertions are not explored in any detail? Moreover, just to play common sense — how is it that Rodchenkov finds himself now in Los Angeles? From what source or sources might he have money to, you know, pay rent and buy dinner?

At page 25-6: “The compressed time frame in which to compile this Report has left much of the possible evidence unreviewed. This Report has skimmed the surface of the data that is available or could be available. As I write this Report our task is incomplete.” By definition, “incomplete” means exactly the opposite of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Page 56, and a reference to the FSB, the Russian security service: “… it was not possible to fully determine the role of the FSB in sport and doping. The IP has only gained a glimpse into the FSB’s operations.” A “glimpse” does not make for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

More of the same at page 59, referring to a specific FSB agent: “Were FSB [agent] Blokhin’s actions approved at the highest level of the FSB and the State? The IP cannot say.”

Without being able to say, there is a hole in this well-meaning report big enough to drive a truck through. About, oh, the size of the tunnel underneath the stadium in Rio from which the athletes enter for the opening ceremony.

See you there, Russian delegation. Behind your red, white and blue Russian flag.

WADA did not just sit idly by

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Fat headlines are fun. A rush to judgment can feel so exhilarating. Yet serious decisions demand facts and measured judgment.

To believe the headlines, to take in the rush, one would believe that the World Anti-Doping Agency sat around for the better part of four years and did nothing amid explosive allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia sparked in large measure by the whistleblower Vitaliy Stepanov, a former Russian doping control officer, and his wife, Yulia, a world-class middle-distance runner.

That’s just not true.

Yulia Stepanova, competing under her maiden name, at the 2011 IAAF world championship 800-meter semifinals // Getty Images

WADA, like any institution, can be faulted for many things. But in this instance, WADA officials did what they could when they could, and with a greater degree of sensitivity and attention to real-life consequence than the story that has dominated many mainstream media accounts and thus has started to take on a freight train-like run of its own.

“WADA’s foot-dragging has raised serious questions about the agency’s willingness to do its job,” Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, wrote in a May 25 op-ed in the New York Times.

Tygart assuredly knows the rules perhaps better than anyone else. In a passage that curiously ignores the fact that WADA itself had no investigative authority until the very start of 2015, the op-ed also says: “WADA knew of the Stepanovs’ accusations for years; Mr. Stepanov was offering evidence of extensive doping in Russia since 2010. Yet the agency was moved to act only after the German documentary,” a December 2014 production on the channel ARD led by the journalist Hajo Seppelt. It was that documentary that broke the Russian scandal open.

An email that circulated this week from John Leonard, a leading U.S. swim coach, opened this way: “Did you see that WADA and Mr. Reedie knew about the entire Russian/ARD issue for 2.5 years before they finally told the whistleblowers to go to ARD?”

It added in a reference to Craig Reedie, the current WADA president, “Reedie is WADA chair and an [International Olympic Committee] VP, that explains the why they sat on it. Direct conflict of interest. He needs to go, now, from WADA.”

This expressly ignores three essential facts:

One, Reedie didn't take over as WADA president until January 2014. To ascribe responsibility to him for something that happened before that is patently unfair. How would he have known? Should have known?

Two, as anyone familiar with the Olympic scene knows well, interlocking directorates are a fact of life in the movement. Dick Pound, the long-term IOC member from Canada, served as WADA’s first president — and he is now, again, a champion to many for being outspoken on the matter of Russian doping after serving on a WADA-appointed independent commission that investigated the matter.

By definition, it can’t be a conflict of interest when there’s full disclosure that Reedie is both IOC vice president and WADA president. Moreover, to assert that Reedie would be acting in his role as WADA president with anything but the best intent assumes facts not in evidence.

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie, right, speaks beside Japanese deputy Education, Culture, Sports and Science Minister Hideki Niwa during a 2015 news conference // Getty Images

Third, from the outset, as a report published last November from that WADA-appointed commission makes plain, the global anti-doping agency has been met in many quarters with considerable reluctance: “WADA continues to face a recalcitrant attitude on the part of many stakeholders that it is merely a service provider and not a regulator.”

WADA’s incoming director-general, Olivier Niggli, emphasized Friday in a telephone interview, referring to the Stepanovs, “We respect them for having been courageous.”

Niggli also said, “We are not the organization we are being portrayed as at the moment. It’s nothing against Vitaliy and his wife.” Amid a doping ban, Yulia Stepanova emerged as a star witness for that WADA-appointed commission.

“I understand,” Niggli said. “It’s not easy for them.”

Olivier Niggli, WADA's incoming director general // WADA

Nothing right now in the anti-doping movement is easy. Perhaps that’s why, amid the storm sparked by the accusations of state-sanctioned doping, the time is right to take a step back and consider what might be done to make the anti-doping campaign that much more effective.

What’s at issue now is hardly solely of WADA’s doing. And none of this is new.

To be frank, it is — and always will be — part of human nature to want to cheat. The challenge in elite sport is how best to rein in that tendency.

In 2013, for instance, in the weeks and months leading up to the election that would see Reedie take over at the start of the next year as WADA president from the Australian government official John Fahey, all this was going down:

Revelations of teens in Turkey being doped. Allegations that West Germany’s government tolerated and covered up a culture of doping among its athletes for decades, and even encouraged it in the 1970s “under the guise of basic research.” Positive tests involving American and Jamaican track stars, including the leading sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. And, of course, Lance Armstrong’s  “confession” to Oprah Winfrey.

Was anyone then braying for the U.S. cycling team to be banned wholesale from the Olympics — which, it should be noted, was underwritten for years by the U.S. government’s Postal Service?

The distinction between the Turks then and the Russians now is — what? That Vladimir Putin is the Russian president?

The Russian allegations are extremely serious. But for the moment, they are just that — allegations, without conclusive, adjudicated proof.

WADA, created as a collaboration between sport and governments, is now roughly 17 years old. Without government buy-in of some sort, the whole thing would probably collapse and yet there’s a delicate balance when it comes to the risk of government interference. Why? In virtually every country except for the United States, responsibility — and funding — for Olympic sport falls to a federal ministry.

WADA’s annual budget is roughly $26 million.

This number, $26 million, forms the crux of the challenge. Most everyone says they want clean sport, particularly in the Olympic context. But do they, really?

Niggli said, “People need to understand the expectation put on us. If they want us to deliver, that is going to take more resources.”

Context, too. An athlete who can pass even hundreds of tests is not necessarily clean, despite the public tendency to want to believe that a negative test result means an athlete is positively clean. Ask Armstrong. Or Marion Jones.

Referring to widespread perceptions of the anti-doping campaign, Pound said in an interview this week, "If you were to ask me that about the NFL or Major League Baseball … I would say they don’t really care. These are professional entertainers. If people are suspended for 80 games or whatever, nobody really cares.”

Indeed, three players — the major leaguers Daniel Stumpf of the Phillies and Chris Colabello of the Blue Jays and the minor leaguer Kameron Loe — were recently suspended for taking the anabolic steroid turinabol, the blue pill at the core of the East German doping program in the 1970s.

Has that, compared to the saga of the Russians, dominated the headlines? Hardly.

The first WADA president and longstanding IOC member Dick Pound at last November's news conference announcing the findings of a WADA-appointed independent commission // Getty Images

Pound continued: “But you watch each time there’s a positive test in the Olympics. That affects people. They kind of hope the Olympics are a microcosm of the world and if the Olympics can work, then maybe the world can work.

“If something goes wrong at the Olympics, there’s inordinate disappointment. If that happens too often, it will turn people off.”

At the same time, when it’s time to put up or shut up — is there genuinely political and financial will across the world to make Pound’s words meaningful?

Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis star busted for the heart-drug meldonium, herself has enjoyed annual revenues more than than WADA’s $26 million per-year budget. Forbes says Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete for the 11th straight year, made $29.7 million between June 2014 and June 2015.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova announcing in March in Los Angeles that she had failed a doping test for meldonium // Getty Images

Big-time U.S. college athletic department budgets can run to five, six or more times WADA’s $26 million. Texas A&M’s revenue, according to a USA Today survey: $192 million. The ranks of those whose annual revenues total roughly $26 million: Illinois State and Toledo.

Down Under, in a long-running saga, 34 past and present Australian Football League players have been banned for doping. Just last week, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, which in 2014 initiated action against the players, confirmed its budget was being cut by 20 percent. In fiscal year 2014, ASADA boasted a staff of 78. By 2017, that figure will be 50, the cuts affecting “all of ASADA’s functions, including our testing, investigative, education and administrative units,” the agency told the Australian broadcast outlet ABC.

The World Anti-Doping Code took effect in 2004. After lengthy consultations, a revised Code came into being in 2009. A further-revised version took effect, again after considerable discussion, in January 2015.

Per its new rules, it was only then — January 2015 — that WADA finally obtained the authority to run investigations.

But even that authority is necessarily limited.

Critically, WADA does not still — cannot — have subpoena power, meaning the authority under threat of sanction to compel testimony or evidence.

Moreover: who is going to pay for any and all investigations?

Suggestions have been advanced that perhaps a fraction of the billions in Olympic-related broadcast fees paid to the IOC ought to go to WADA. Or leading pharmaceutical companies or top-tier Olympic sponsors not only could but should contribute significantly as a matter of corporate social responsibility.

All this remains to be hashed out.

Meanwhile, it is without dispute that any meaningful investigation takes time, resource, patience, planning and, in the best cases, sound reasoning.

As Niggli put it, “The message is that these investigations — this is one example — take time. If you want to get something, you can’t react emotionally and throw everything out. In this case that would have been the end of the story.”

Stepanov first approached WADA officials at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“It’s not that in 2010 Vitaliy came to us with a file, a binder, and said, ‘This is what is happening in Russia,’ and we sat on that,” Niggli said.

“At first he came to us and said he had some worries about what was going on. He maybe had some information from his job and potentially some information from his wife.

“This was a conversation for a number of years.”

In 2010, Niggli said, there were “two emails exchanged,” the substance of both was, more or less, let’s meet again and find a way to communicate. In 2011, there was another meeting, in Boston — the thinking that a get-together would hardly attract attention because Stepanov was there to run the marathon. In 2012, more emails. “All this time,” Niggli said, Stepanov had “not told his wife he was talking to us.”

Why? “She was competing and doping, as we now know. He was worried about her and protecting her.”

The Stepanovs in a recent appearance on '60 Minutes' // CBS News

Niggli also said of the period from 2010 to 2013: “That was not at all a stage where we had corroborating evidence.”

The “game-changer,” as Niggli put it, came when Yulia Stepanova was busted for doping, formally announced in February 2013: “They together decided they would do the right thing.”

It was about this time that, according to the WADA-appointed independent commission, Stepanova started making secret recordings with Russian coaches and officials. The recordings would carry on through November 2014; she made them at places as varied as Moscow’s Kazinsky rail station and a hotel in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet satellite.

On Feb. 10, 2013, Stepanov sent an email to a WADA contact. It read, in part:

“After thinking for another few hours and talking to my wife, to try to make a bigger impact we need more evidence. We will not hide anything from you … it’s not really my wife’s fault she is being punished but we feel we can get more evidence. To get more evidence we need more time.”

Two days later, another Stepanov email: “I spoke to my wife and here is what we think right now … we think right now that probably there is no reason to really rush everything.”

The next month, WADA organized another meeting — the Stepanovs and Jack Robertson, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officer who was hired in 2011 as WADA’s chief investigative officer (the argument: the agency pro-actively trying to make advancements though it then had no authority to conduct its own investigations).

Robertson was “very careful to make sure this was confidential, to make sure they would not be put in danger,” Niggli said.

“Obviously, we would not want to share [what it might be learning] with Russia. We did not share with the IAAF,” track and field’s international governing body, “which now looks like a good and prudent decision,” given that then-IAAF president Lamine Diack is alleged to have orchestrated a conspiracy that took more than $1 million in bribes to keep Russian athletes eligible, including at the London 2012 Olympics.

In 2013, WADA went to the Moscow anti-doping lab, hoping to find corroborating evidence. “We found some but not as much as we hoped to,” Niggli said. The agency opened a “disciplinary commission” and for some months it remained uncertain if the Russians would keep the lab, and the Sochi 2014 Winter Games satellite, accredited.

“With the information we had,” Niggli said, “we asked whether this was not putting the whistle-blowers,” the Stepanovs, “in danger.”

The Stepanovs, along with their young son, are now out of Russia, in an undisclosed location.

It was in early 2014 that Robertson sent an email to Stepanov suggesting he get in touch with Seppelt, the German reporter and filmmaker.

The ARD broadcast aired that December.

Just a few weeks later, at the start of 2015, WADA, with investigative authority, commissioned the three-member independent panel: Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, German law enforcement official Günter Younger and Pound.

“That is the big picture,” Niggli said. “It’s not something that happened on Day One. It built over time. It was long work. It was done the right way, to protect [the Stepanovs] and make sure they would not lose the benefit of all that has been done.

He added a moment later, “I’m sure that if we had acted earlier, there would be no result. It would have been dimmed or killed. It would have been Vitaliy and his wife alone, with the denial of a state such as Russia. That,” he said, “would not have held much weight.”

The incredible Aries Merritt, and more

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A dozen musings on track and field, on the 2024 Summer Games bid race and more:

1. At a news conference Friday in Eugene, Oregon, before Saturday’s line-up of events at the 42nd annual Prefontaine Classic, the question went out to Aries Merritt, the 2012 London men’s 110-meter hurdles champion who is also the world record-holder, 12.8 seconds, in the event: on a scale of one to 10, where did he fall?

Heading toward the U.S. Trials in a month and, presumably, beyond to the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Merritt has probably the most unbelievable, incredible, authentic story in track and field. He had a degenerative kidney condition. With almost no kidney function, he somehow won a bronze medal in the hurdles at the 2015 world championships. Thereafter, with his sister as the donor, he underwent a kidney transplant. It required not just one but two surgeries.

Aries Merritt showing off his kidney transplant scar at a pre-Pre news conference

So — one to 10? “Ten,” he said. Which means that the hurdles, always one of the best events at the track, figures to be that much better. And, America and beyond — get ready, via NBC and every outlet out there, for the Aries Merritt story. He deserves every bit of good publicity he gets.

2. With all due respect to the sainted Steve Prefontaine — no snark or sarcasm intended, only a full measure of respect — a significant chunk of the problem with track and field in the United States is Steve Prefontaine.

Every sport needs heroes. Not just legends.

The elements of the Prefontaine story have been well-chronicled: the U.S. records at virtually every middle- and long distance event, the fourth in the 5k at the Munich 1972 Games, his life cut short in a car crash at 24.

The legend of Prefontaine, and appropriately, has had a longstanding hold on the U.S. track and field imagination.

Steve Prefontaine racing in London in September 1972 // Getty Images

But imagine if, say, baseball was stuck in the Roberto Clemente era. Or the NBA fixated on Reggie Lewis, Len Bias, Malik Sealy or, for that matter, Drazen Petrovic. Or the NFL on Junior Seau and others.

One of the major challenges with track and field now is that there is no 2016 version of larger-than-life Prefontaine. No one is that guy (or that woman). Ashton Eaton could be and maybe should be. But who else? Merritt? It's anyone's guess.

Most Americans, asked to name a track and field star, will answer: Carl Lewis.

It has been roughly 20 years since Lewis made any noise on the track itself, more than 40 since Prefontaine was alive. Meanwhile, fourth-graders all around the 50 states can readily debate (pick one) Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, whether Derek Jeter was the best Yankee ever, whether they would start an NBA team with (pick one) LeBron James or Steph Curry.

Every sport, to repeat, needs heroes. Not just legends.

3. Earlier this year, the former 800-meter world champion Caster Semenya made even hardened track geeks go, whoa. She raced, and won, three events — on the same day — at the South African national championships, the women’s 400 (personal-best 50.74), 800 (1:58.45) and 1500 (4:10.93, outside Olympic qualifying time).

So much for the theory — oft-advanced by track freaks who never bother to, say, watch swimming — that a world-class athlete can’t race, and win, multiple events on the same day.

From start to finish, Semenya ran the three races in about four hours.

She went 1:58.26 to win the Doha Diamond League meet in early May, winning by nearly an entire second.

On Sunday, and she wasn’t even really going all out, Semenya ran 1:56.64 for the win at the first IAAF Diamond League meet in Africa, in Rabat, Morocco. She won by more than a full second.

For comparison: on Friday night, on Day One of the 2016 Prefontaine Classic at historic Hayward Field, American Alysia Montaño-Johnson won the women's 800 in 2:00.78.

 Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates her May 6 victory in the women's 800 at the Doha Diamond League event // Getty Images

Semenya doesn’t deserve to do anything but get to run, and run as fast as possible. At the 2009 world championships in Berlin, she ran away with the 800, in a crazy-fast 1:55.45. Then it was disclosed that she had elevated testosterone levels. The gender testing — and, more, the shaming — that she endured thereafter proved unconscionable.

The rules are the rules. The rules say she can run in women’s events.

The real question is: what should be the rules?

Because it’s perhaps not that difficult to explain why Semenya is — after silvers in the 800 at the 2011 worlds and 2012 Olympics and then injuries and subpar performances since — running so fast again now.

It’s all about testosterone levels.

Because of Semenya, track and field’s international governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, as well as the International Olympic Committee, put in place a new policy: you could run in women’s events if your testosterone levels fell under a threshold of 10 nanomoles (that’s what it’s called) per liter. In scientific jargon: 10 nmo/L.

Context: as the South African scientist and writer Ross Tucker points out in a brilliant Q&A on what is called “hyperandrogenism” with the activist Joanna Harper, 99 percent of female athletes registered testosterone levels below 3.08 nmo/L.

From the science department, part I: “hyper” is science talk for what in ordinary speech might be described as “way, way more.” The primary and probably most well-known “androgen” is testosterone.

Part II, simple math: the upper limit of 10 is more than three times higher than for 99 in 100 women.

Last year, in a decision that pleased human rights advocates but left knowledgable track observers puzzled (to say the least), sport’s top court, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, ruling in the case of sprinter Dutee Chand from India, said the IAAF (and IOC) could no longer enforce the testosterone limit.

In real life, and particularly as we look toward Rio, this means what?

The IAAF and IOC are trying to come up with a new policy.

In the meantime, Semenya, “plus a few others,” as Tucker writes, “have no restriction.” The erasure of the limit has “utterly transformed Semenya from an athlete who was struggling to run 2:01 to someone who is tactically running 1:56," Tucker goes on to say, adding, "My impression, having seen her live and now in the Diamond League, is that she could run 1:52, and if she wanted to, would run a low 48-second 400 meters and win that gold in Rio. too.”

He also writes that Semenya is “the unfortunate face of what is going to be a massive controversy in Rio” — my words here, not his, about who is a “female” and gets to run in “women’s” events. He writes, "It won’t be any consolation to Semenya, [that] the media, frankly, have no idea how to deal with this – nobody wants it to be about the athlete, and it certainly is not her fault.  However, it is a debate we must have, and I want to try to have it from the biological, sporting perspective, and steer clear of the minority bullying that so often punctuates these matters.”

Tucker is right. The debate — calm voices only, please — needs to be held, and in short order.

4. UCLA, per a report first from ESPN, landed the biggest college sports apparel deal ever, with Under Armour. Terms: 15 years, beginning in July 2017. The deal is believed to be worth $280 million.

Biggest-ever is likely to be relative, depending on what comes next.

Because, in recent months:

Michigan, 11 years (option to extend to 15), Nike, $169 million,

Texas, 15 years, Nike $250 million.

Ohio State, 15 years, Nike, $252 million.

Boosters of these schools, and others, typically tend to react with glee at these sorts of numbers.

Rhetorical question, part I: why, when USA Track & Field chief executive officer Max Siegel scores a $500 million, 23-year deal with Nike, do some number of track fans bemoan Nike’s influence as a death star of sorts and claim the federation is verging on stupidity if not recklessness?

Rhetorical question, part II: how is it that dismissive claims about the USATF/Nike deal become gospel among the disaffected when track athletes actually get paid to run for a living but college athletes, as UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen noted in a Tweet that quickly got deleted, don’t — and likely won’t —get to see a dime of any of those millions?

Just a thought here: maybe Siegel was, you know, ahead of the power curve.

5. More on USATF, now on the dismissal this week per 11-1 vote of the federation’s board of directors of the Youth Executive Committee and its chairman, Lionel Leach:

Many, many things could be said here about Leach and the conduct that led to this action.

For now, this will suffice:

This is a movie whose ending we can all know, and now.

Why?

Because it’s a re-run.

What’s at issue, at the core, is a power struggle between the volunteers and professional staff.

Here’s news: the professional staff is going to win. As it should.

It used to be that the U.S. Olympic Committee found itself consumed by precisely this sort of petty, personalized politics. That changed when governance reforms became real; when the board empowered the chief executive to run the show; and when the chief executive proved professional and hugely competent (USOC: Scott Blackmun, USATF: Siegel).

It's a fact that USATF has a long and contentious history. But this is a fact, too: Siegel's first four years have shown dramatic, and consequential, improvement for the federation, and the sport.

6. Moving along, to an international sports federation president who also gets it, even if the IOC often doesn't want to admit so: Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation.

Vizer, in advance of the start Friday of a major IJF event in Guadalajara, Mexico, spent about two hours doing a live Q&A on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/MariusVizer/status/736270089708703744

Imagine: actually doing exactly what the IOC says it wants to do, to reach out to young people in those ways, like Twitter, by which young people connect with each other.

Far too many federation presidents might have something resembling a panic attack at the thought of entertaining questions about whatever from whoever. Vizer, who has never had anything to hide and has consistently been a forceful voice for accountability and change (to the IOC's chagrin), made it plain: bring it on.

Indeed, Vizer ended by saying more such Q&A's would be forthcoming.

https://twitter.com/MariusVizer/status/736291453161246722

7. Switching to 2024 bid news:

If you might be tempted to look past those potentially significant developments related to the allegations of Russian doping — first, a potential U.S. Justice Department inquiry and, second, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart’s bombshell of an op-ed in the New York Times — it was otherwise a good week for the LA24 bid committee, at least for those things it could and can control.

Los Angeles, behind a bid headed by Casey Wasserman, who is also in charge of LA24, won the right to stage the 2021 Super Bowl.

Plus, a rail line from downtown to Santa Monica opened, to real excitement and big crowds. Roll that around in your head: LA. Rail. It’s real. Really.

8. Still a long way to go in the 2024 race, which the IOC will decide by secret ballot in September 2017 at a meeting in Lima, Peru. Three others are in the race: Paris, Rome, Budapest.

It’s a proven that what wins Olympic elections are, first, relationships, and two, telling a story that will move IOC members emotionally.

Right now, only two of the four are telling a real story: Los Angeles. And Budapest.

9. Turning to the 2020 Summer Games campaign, won by Tokyo:

The Japanese Olympic Committee announces a three-person investigation of allegations of bribery. This from the same place that brought you the burning of the Nagano 1998 books so as to avoid embarrassing the IOC.

Let’s all wish for really good luck in getting a genuine answer.

Why in the world would you need to send $2 million to Ian Tan Hong Han, a consultant based in Singapore, who is close friends with Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack, the then-president of the IAAF, when virtually no one in the Singapore international sports community knew of Han or his firm, Black Tidings?

Black Tidings had precisely what know-how to provide such high-level consultancy services?

More: those who were there for the Singapore 2010 Youth Games know there had to be external help when Singapore was bidding for YOG. Curious.

10. Russia uses sports as an instrument of what’s called “soft power,” meaning president Vladimir Putin has sought to use sports to project a Russian image of strength, not only abroad but, crucially, within Russia itself.

The United States, which under President Obama has clashed with the Kremlin over issues ranging from the disclosures of the activist Edward Snowden to the composition of the formal U.S. delegation to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, has if not unparalleled then at least significant resource available to its spy agencies.

How is it that Sochi 2014 lab director Gregoriy Rodchenkov could flee Russia and end up so quickly in the United States? No one in the American spy apparatus would want to embarrass the Russians, would they?

Again: just curious.

11. What a surprise! The London 2012 doping re-test positives became public on a Friday!

The numbers: 23 athletes from five sports and six countries, based on 265 re-tests

More numbers, 32 doping cases from London 2012, 57 for Beijing 2008. Previous high, according to IOC figures: 26, Athens 2004.

To reiterate a central point: you have to be frighteningly stupid to get caught doping at the Olympic Games themselves.

It’s one thing to be caught in no-notice, out-of-competition testing. But at the Games?

You know there are going to be drug tests. You know the samples are going to be kept in the freezer for (at least) 10 years to allow for advances in testing.

It has been said many times but is still worth repeating: failing a drug test at the Olympics is like failing an IQ test.

Stupid.

12. If you’re thinking of going to Rio, don’t. Sorry to say so but — don’t. Watch on TV.

The pictures will be beautiful and the only danger in overloading on TV is breathing in that funky orange-red Doritos powder.

In Brazil, meanwhile:

The case of the Spanish sailors getting held-up at gunpoint, lucky to escape with their lives, underscores the No. 1 challenge ahead of these Games. More than dirty water, or maybe even Zika, or presidential politics, or corruption scandals. More than anything. To compete, or to be at, the Games in Rio, you have to deal with life in Rio as it is. Maybe — maybe even probably — it will be fine. But one wrong misstep, even with no fault, and you might well find yourselves in a scene evoking Tom Wolfe’s 1987 masterpiece, “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

Who wants that? Be a master of your TV universe.

 

Who knew what, when? And what is to be done?

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The World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report that shines a long-overdue spotlight on Russian doping in track and field begs a question in Russian history. As Lenin himself wrote in the famous pamphlet published in 1902: what is to be done? At the same time, and though the report, released Monday, has little to nothing to do with the United States, a bit of political history from the American archives is worth noting, too. From the Watergate years: who knew what, and when?

Make no mistake.

On the surface, this report is about track and field.

Not really.

This is about the intersection of sport and politics, indeed domestic and geopolitics at its highest, most complex, indeed most nuanced levels. Its roots are in the way countries can, and do, lean on sports to advance nationalistic agendas of all sorts.

The WADA-appointed three-member Independent Commission upon the release of the report Monday in Geneva: Canadian lawyer and professor Richard McLaren, former WADA president Richard Pound and German law enforcement official Guenter Younger // photo Getty Images

The report is lengthy, more than 300 pages.

Much like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s “Reasoned Decision” in the Lance Armstrong matter, made public in 2012, and for the same reason, it reads like a John le Carré spy novel.

That reason: it’s designed not just for insiders but for everyone.

The report is rich with Olympics 101, spelling out the acronym- and influence-rich scene, explaining who is who and what is what — for instance, on page 88, the helpful note that “stacking” means mixing oral steroids with injectable drugs.

In sum, this is what the report says:

— Corrupt state-funded agencies helped Russian athletes to dope and evade detection. These include the Russian athletics federation, which goes by the initials ARAF; the WADA-accredited testing laboratory in Moscow; and RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency.

— The successor to the KGB secret service, the FSB intelligence agency, oversaw the lab and embedded spies at the 2014 Sochi Games, according to witnesses.

— The Russian sports ministry exerted influence on the Moscow lab, issuing orders for athletes’ samples to be manipulated. There was a second, secret lab in Moscow; there, samples — blood and urine — would be pre-screened to identify clear ones for the WADA process.

— Finally, athletes would also get false identities to travel abroad to evade possible testing.

The first question in wondering what is to be done is to ask: if the scale of Russian doping was this monumental, evoking comparisons to the notorious East German regime in the 1970s, how did it take until now to get uncovered?

Answer:

It’s not as if certain people didn’t at the least have strong suspicions. They just couldn’t prove anything.

You don’t just stroll into Russia and go, hey, I have some questions for you — buy you a coffee and we’ll chat?

The report makes manifestly plain the lengths to which athletes, coaches, trainers and more sought to evade the providing of answers.

Further, the international sports movement moves in English. Russia does not.

Beyond that, to secure proof you need either cooperation or, to use a word, leverage. That leverage usually means action from the public authorities, police and prosecutors, who can demand answers at the risk of jail time or financial ruin.

This is what’s happening in France, where Interpol, the international police agency, is based, and where Part II of all of this is due to drop later this year. Last week, the French authorities said they had put under criminal investigation Lamine Diack of Senegal, the former president of track’s international governing body, the IAAF, on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. At issue are allegations Diack accepted more than $1 million in bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to compete, including at the London 2012 Olympics.

Also under investigation are Diack’s legal adviser, Habib Cisse, and the former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dollé.

Sports agencies do not wield subpoena power. And those who seek to enforce the rules of fair play have not always found easy sledding.

WADA is now 16 years old. As Monday’s report notes, “WADA continues to face a recalcitrant attitude on the part of many stakeholders that it is merely a service provider and not a regulator.”

The report actually underscores a fundamental flaw in the way, big picture, international sports work. There typically is no check-and-balance within the system.

The only reliable check is good journalism, and kudos here to Hajo Seppelt and the team from the German broadcaster ARD for the documentary last year that led to the WADA-appointed commission, and this report.

Reality: far too often, Olympic and international sports officials treat journalists with that pair of favorites, skepticism and derision. This week’s international federations forum at the IOC base in Lausanne, Switzerland — closed to the press.

Why?

Maybe because far too many are afraid of — the truth? And having it reported?

Earlier this year, Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation and at the time of SportAccord, said at the SportAccord convention, referring to Diack, “I dedicate and I sacrifice my family for sport, I mean sacrifice in a way of dedication, and in my eyes [Diack is] a person who sacrifices sport for his family."

Quickly, many others in the so-called Olympic family turned on Vizer. He lost the SportAccord job.

Time has now seemingly proven him right. So why were so many in senior positions so uneasy at hearing what Vizer had to say? Why was he so ostracized?

And what else -- beyond FIFA -- might be out there?

At any rate, and moving on to the rocks-and-glass houses department for those who think doping in sports is a Russia-only problem:

Cheating is never going to go away. There will always be doping. That's human nature.

From the WADA-appointed report: “… in  its considered view, Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport."

Just consider what the United States has been through in recent years: Marion Jones and BALCO, MLB’s steroid problem, Armstrong.

Here, though, is the key difference:

There is no federal sports ministry in the United States.

Dick Pound, the longtime Canadian IOC member and former WADA boss who headed the commission that produced Monday’s report, called what happened with regard to Russian track and field “state-supported.”

He said, “I don’t think there's any other possible conclusion. It may be a residue of the old Soviet Union system."

The report: “While written evidence of governmental involvement has not been produced, it would be naive in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities.”

This is where things get really interesting.

In the Olympic sphere, Russia is arguably the most important country in the world.

The short list why:

The $51 billion that went toward the 2014 Sochi Games. Hosting of the 2013 world track and field championships in Moscow, and the 2015 world swim championships in Kazan. The 2018 World Cup. The 2015 SportAccord convention, back in Sochi. And more.

Dmitry Medvedev, right, now the Russian prime minister, and sports minister Vitaly Mutko at the 2015 world swim championships in Kazan // Getty Images

Without question, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is one of the top five most influential personalities in world sport.

That short list:

Thomas Bach, the IOC president; Putin; the FIFA president, whoever that might be; Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees and a member of the FIFA executive committee; and Sebastian Coe, the recently elected head of the IAAF.

Why Putin?

When Bach was elected IOC president, in September 2013, it’s wise to remember, the very first phone call he took was from Putin.

The chairman of the 2022 IOC Winter Games evaluation commission? Alexander Zhukov, the head of the Russian Olympic committee.

There can be zero question that, as in the Cold War days, Putin is using sport — and its prestige — to advance his reputation and his nation’s standing, both domestically and geopolitically.

Either that, or you think that hosting the Winter Games, the swim and track championships and the World Cup are all just because Russia and Putin are just good sports.

So, mindful that the FSB was in on the deal, and that control in state-directed Russia can be everything, how far up the chain did the activities detailed in Monday’s report go?

Is it believable that Vitaly Mutko, the sports minister, really didn’t know?

Mutko reports to Putin. Really, neither knew?

Referring to Mutko, Pound said Monday he believes it was “not possible for him to be unaware of it.” And if he was aware, “he was complicit in it.”

Consider:

After the 2010 Vancouver Games, where Russian athletes won only three gold medals, the-then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, made a point of declaring that a raft of sports ministry officials ought to hand in their resignations, or be fired. The resignations ensued.

Medvedev, who segued back to prime minister after Putin took over the presidency again in 2012, also observed that Russia "has lost the old Soviet school ... and we haven't created our own school -- despite the fact that the amount of money that is invested in sport is unprecedentedly high."

Mutko, who has been an ally of Putin’s for years, survived.

The Russians then won the medals count in Sochi, with 33, and the most golds, 13.

A reasonable question: how did that happen?

Pound on Monday: “I don’t think we can be confident there was no manipulation” of doping tests at the 2014 Winter Games.

Monday’s report says the 2012 London Games were “in a sense, sabotaged” because athletes ran who shouldn’t have, because they were dirty. The report targets five Russian runners for lifetime bans. Among them: the London 2012 800 gold and bronze winners, Mariya Savinova-Farnosova and Ekaterina Poistogova.

They got to compete, the report said, because of the “collapse of the anti-doping system,” blaming RUSADA, ARAF and, lastly, the IAAF.

The report recommends that Russia be suspended until there is compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, went hard Monday, saying in a statement that the “evidence released today demonstrates a shocking level of corruption,” adding, “If Russia has created an organized scheme of state-supported doping, then they have no business being allowed to compete on the world stage.”

Late in the day, Mutko's sports ministry put out a statement that said, "We are not surprised by most of the points in the report." It declared "we have undertaken measures to remedy the situation, including the appointment of a new ARAF president and head coach. It then turned on the IAAF, saying the ministry "is waiting for such measures from IAAF, where the new president also has zero-tolerance for doping."

Coe took over for Diack in August. On Monday, the IAAF issued a statement saying it would consider appropriate sanctions; such measures could mean no Russian track and field athletes at next year’s Rio Olympics; the Russians have until the end of the week to respond.

“The allegations are alarming,” Coe said. “These are dark days.”

Perhaps, then, that is what is to be done: no Russians in track and field in Rio.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, left, listens in as Russian pole vault champion and Sochi 2014 Olympic village mayor Yelena Isinbayeva, center, whispers during a visit to the Olympic village at the 2014 Sochi Games // Getty Images

Consider: Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole-vault diva and two-time (2004, 2008) gold medalist, the IOC Youth Olympic Games ambassador and Sochi Games Olympic Village mayor herself, would not get one more chance for gold.

Or perhaps Mr. Putin might not like that idea of no Russians in Rio, might not like at all the notion that Isinbayeva, a favorite, might not get the chance for a third Olympic gold.

And where would that lead?

What will be done? Who knows? Who thinks that sports and politics are, truly, separate?

We are living, in real time, in history.

Justin Gatlin, and a run for redemption

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When Justin Gatlin first got the news — this was nine years ago — that he had tested positive for the banned substance testosterone, he literally fell out of the truck he was driving.

“While we were on the phone,” his mother, Jeanette, would later testify, “all I could hear was him screaming and screaming on the other end, and how, no, no, no, no, I’m dead, I’m dead. And we were afraid that he was going to do something to himself. He was in North Carolina, and we were in Florida. You know, to — you can’t get there. You can’t keep him safe from doing whatever. He was just — he was — he was — he was screaming. He was screaming and yelling, and he was driving, and he was in his truck, and he fell out. He stopped, and he fell out, and he fell apart. He just kept on saying, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead. It’s over, it’s over, it’s — I’m dead, Mommy, I’m dead.’ ”

Justin Gatlin is assuredly not dead, and his track and field career is now the farthest thing from over. For the past two-plus years, Gatlin has been the best sprinter on Planet Earth, the fastest guy anywhere anytime. Many experts expect him not only to challenge but to defeat Usain Bolt in the 100 meters at the world championships, which begin this weekend at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. And maybe the 200, too.

Justin Gatlin in June at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, after running 19.57 to win the 200 at the U.S. nationals // Getty Images

"That's what everyone is waiting to see," Maurice Greene, the Sydney 2000 100 gold medalist, said Friday.

Here in Beijing as a television commentator, Greene added, referring to Bolt, "How prepared is he? Because you know Justin is prepared."

That 2006 test was Gatlin’s second go-around with the doping authorities; he would end up being banned for four years. The first test came in 2001. Because the facts and circumstances of both tests have been not just under-reported but thoroughly misunderstood, Gatlin has become to many with an interest in track and field something like Public Enemy No. 1 — particularly when compared, as he often is, to the larger-than-life Bolt.

The British press in particular has been given to depicting the races here in Beijing as a clash of "good versus evil."

In March, the Telegraph, one of Britain’s leading dailies, called Bolt a “superhero.”  A few days ago, the same newspaper included Gatlin on a list of what it called “the most hated sportsmen in the world,” a “sport-by-sport breakdown of the most loathsome individuals.”

 At a news conference Thursday, Bolt was asked if he was the "savior" of track and field. He said, speaking generally, not referring to Gatlin, “People are saying I need to win for the sport. But there’s a lot of other athletes out there running clean, and who have run clean throughout their whole careers. I can’t do it by myself. It’s a responsibility of all the athletes to take it upon themselves to save the sport and go forwards without drug cheats."

Usain Bolt at Thursday's news conference // Getty Images

The curious thing is that Justin Gatlin is the farthest thing from loathsome. As Greene said, referring to both Bolt and Gatlin, "Take out everything that has to do with sports. They’re both good guys." David Oliver, the U.S. 110-meter hurdles standout, said about Gatlin, "I'm rooting for him and I hope he does well."

Gatlin comes from a strong family. His father, Willie, served with distinction for more than 20 years in the U.S. military, a Vietnam veteran, and the son wears the red, white and blue national uniform with pride. Justin Gatlin is great with kids and with track and field fans. When he got tagged in 2006, his first instinct was to cooperate with the federal government in its BALCO investigation, which he did extensively. Since coming back to the sport five years ago, he has not tested positive, and be assured that he is a marked man.

The question now is, if you allow for the very real possibility that Justin Gatlin is indeed running clean, can he run this week in Beijing for redemption?

All things are possible in sports, and particularly track and field, which for years has been bedeviled by doping. But what if -- what if -- Gatlin is, despite all the well-earned skepticism about the sport, running clean?

In his sworn testimony, Gatlin himself said, “I believe in my talent to the fullest. And I think God is trying to be, my way of showing everyone that I can do this, I can run great times without even trying to use performance-enhancing drugs.”

In an interview, he said, “I think that for so long I have shut down because of being beat upon by the media, [believing] if I say less it will go away. I’m wrong.

“At this point in time, I am trying to open up more, speak more and take it in. I am a cool guy, a nice guy. I am not trying to short-change anybody taking anything away from anyone. I welcome competition. If I get beat, I say, ‘That was a good beating.’ If I win, ‘I say that’s a good win.’ ''

The many critics of track’s doping rules say, often citing Gatlin, that two strikes should mean a lifetime doping ban. But the rules say, unequivocally, that Gatlin is allowed to run.

It's not difficult to understand why the concept of a lifetime ban might seem so appealing to so many. But theory is not real life. And it is the case that when applied to life as it is — how Justin Gatlin came to test twice — a lifetime ban would be cruelly unfair.

Those plain facts are publicly available, and sketched out in great detail, including sworn testimony in extensive transcripts from a 2007 arbitration sparked by Gatlin’s 2006 test. These documents inhabit a federal court file in Pensacola, Florida. They make it clear that:

— Gatlin’s first flunked test, in 2001, was for medication he had been taking for attention deficit disorder, a condition he had wrestled with since he was a young boy. Gatlin, at the time still a teen-ager, tried to follow the rules. Nonetheless, he came up positive.

— The second test, at the Kansas Relays in 2006, has long sparked controversy because of the assertion in Gatlin’s camp that a masseuse rubbed steroid-laced cream on Gatlin, sparking the doping positive. A reading of the record strongly suggests that story came from Gatlin’s former coach, Trevor Graham, whose credibility — amid his extensive involvement in the BALCO scandal — has to be viewed with extreme suspicion. A more likely, if unproven, explanation is that the positive test resulted from a shot or a pill described at length in the testimony.

“At the end of the day,” Gatlin said in an interview at his training base in Clermont, Florida, near Orlando, “the irony of the situation is I really do want the sport to be in a better place outside of everything that has gone on in my life.

“I look at the young guys and say, ‘I don’t want you to go through what I went through because you run fast, or run faster.’

“I want people to say he is making a difference in his sport — moving the sport along.”

Justin Gatlin has run fast for a very long time. In high school in Florida, he was a state champion sprinter. That earned him a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. There he was a multiple NCAA champion.

At the 2001 junior nationals, when he was 19, Gatlin tested positive for trace amounts of amphetamine.

The substance at issue was Adderall, a prescription medication. At age 9, in fourth grade, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. His class had been assigned a test; Justin turned in a paper that contained a picture of a bird he had drawn instead -- the bird, on a window ledge, had captured his entire focus. A teacher suggested to his parents that Justin ought “to be evaluated.”

At UT, Gatlin was taking two summer school classes he needed to stay eligible: English 101 and Music History 350. In both classes, he had midterms the week of June 11, 2001, just before the junior nationals.

Gatlin took his Adderall to help him stay focused while studying for his midterms. He stopped taking it three days before running — why three days, exactly, instead of four or five or two or whatever, remains unclear. In the sample Gatlin gave on June 16, 2001, authorities detected trace amounts of amphetamine. A sample he gave the next day, June 17, contained even smaller amounts, consistent with Gatlin having stopped taking the Adderall on or before June 13.

The authorities and Gatlin would enter in a stipulated — meaning, mutually agreed — series of facts surrounding that test. These included:

“The course of action followed by most athletes with ADD is simply to discontinue their medication in advance of a competition. USADA,” the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, “advised athletes after consultation with their physicians to discontinue using the ADD medication prior to competition in order for the medication to clear their system.”

And:

“Mr. Gatlin neither cheated nor intended to cheat. He did not intend to enhance his performance nor, given his medical condition, did his medication in fact enhance his performance.”

The rule in doping matters is that an athlete is strictly liable for what is in his or her system.

The standard ban in those years for a first doping offense was two years.

An arbitration panel that reviewed the matter would observe:

“While Mr. Gatlin may have violated the IAAF anti-doping rules in that he did not first seek an exemption from the IAAF for his medication before he competed, he certainly is not a doper. This Panel would characterize Mr. Gatlin’s inadvertent violation of the IAAF’s rules based on uncontested facts as, at most, a ‘technical’ or ‘paperwork’ violation.”

Gatlin got two years. He then petitioned the IAAF for a reduction, citing “exceptional circumstances.” Granted. He served a provisional suspension of almost one year.

Gatlin left UT in 2002 and turned pro. He started training in Raleigh, North Carolina, with Graham’s Sprint Capitol group.

At the 2003 world indoor championships in Birmingham, England, Gatlin won the 60-meter dash.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Gatlin won the 100, in 9.85 seconds. He took third in the 200, in 20.03. He also earned a silver as part of the U.S. 4x100 relay team.

At the 2005 world championships in Helsinki, Gatlin won both the 100 and 200.

When Gatlin first connected with Graham, Gatlin’s parents were acutely concerned that Graham not only train Gatlin but, more broadly, look after their son.

“And all that was said at that time was, are you sure nothing is going to happen to Justin?” his mother would testify, recalling their first conversations with Graham.

“Are you going to make sure that he doesn’t get involved in all this other stuff,” meaning doping, “that, you know, my husband was reading about on the Internet, and I was reading about on the Internet.

“And he,” meaning Graham, “said, ‘Absolutely. That has nothing to do with us, my camp, and the way I train my athletes.”

Gatlin training under current coach Dennis Mitchell in Clermont, Florida

On April Fools’ Day 2004, a prank circulated on the web that Gatlin had tested positive.

“And actually, I was at the dentist’s office,” Jeanette Gatlin testified. “Justin was home. He had not really just located — I mean, he was home for visiting — and, anyway, my husband ran across this article on the Internet saying that Justin Gatlin had tested positive. And he called me at the dentist’s office, I went running home and he — should I say it all?”

“Go ahead,” the lawyer questioning her said.

“He was packing his gun.”

“And where was he headed?”

“He was headed to kill Trevor Graham.”

“And why was [that]?’

“Because it said Justin had tested positive, and Trevor had promised that there would be nothing like that going on in his camp. He was going to take care of Justin. And he knew, he knew that [Justin] already had that other offense hanging over him.”

“I trust you stopped him?”

“We stopped him, because … I’m saying — I’m saying, how can you go kill this man? I mean, you are going to — anyway, my husband is crying. Tears are coming out of his eyes. He’s crying. He’s ready to kill Trevor. And then Justin goes on the Internet, and he sits there, and he looks at it, and he says, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, read the bottom of it. Read the bottom of it. And the bottom of it said, April Fool’s.”

“Do you know who posted that?”

“I have no idea but we were very angry about it. And my husband was saying that — you know, they can’t be playing jokes like this with people’s lives. and then all of a sudden, somebody else may read it and believe it without going through it, like he didn’t go through it. And we never did find out who posted it …”

Track and field has a distinct rhythm to the outdoor season. Athletes build toward summer, which three years out of four brings either a world championships or Summer Games.

The Kansas Relays is an early-season fixture on the circuit, a three-day meet held every almost year (since 1923) in April.

On April 22, 2006, Gatlin ran in the 4x100 relay at those Kansas Relays with his Sprint Capitol teammates. They won, in 38.16.

On July 29, Gatlin announced to the press that he had tested positive for testosterone at the Kansas Relays.

Two mysteries relating to the 2006 test have long endured.

The first is what authorities thought they would find — that is, why bother to test — at such an early-season affair.

The second is why it took so long — three months, April to July — for the test from those Kansas Relays to become what’s called, in the vernacular, an “adverse analytical finding,” or a doping positive.

The court files explain.

From May 2004 through October 2006, Paul Scott supervised the reporting of athlete urine samples at the WADA-accredited UCLA laboratory. In that capacity, he supervised the reporting of Gatlin’s Kansas Relays sample. He would provide an April 7, 2008, sworn affidavit relating what happened:

Though the sample was provided April 22, 2006, it wasn’t until June 15 that the lab itself reported an adverse analytical finding. This nearly two-month delay was, as Scott would say, “not common practice.”

The reason for the delay?

Gatlin’s sample initially produced a negative result — meaning he apparently was clear — under what’s called the T/E ratio test, the standard test used both in- and out-of-competition to screen for testosterone. Indeed, Scott said, Gatlin’s sample was originally reported to USADA as a negative.

About one month later, USADA got in touch and requested that the lab perform what’s called a “longitudinal analysis” because, Scott said, because “they had reason to believe that the athlete was using testosterone,” adding, “I now know this athlete to be Justin.”

USADA executive Travis Tygart did not, Scott said, inform the lab of the “nature of the ‘tip’ nor the basis for his belief.”

The lab did as asked, and concluded that Gatlin is what’s called a “low-mode individual,” who — to make it simple — lacks a particular enzyme, with the effect that the T/E ratio is typically very low and does not much change if that individual is administered “exogenous testosterone,” from a source outside his body.

The lab told USADA Gatlin was low-mode. “I am not aware of whether we recommended or USADA requested that a Carbon Isotope Ratio test be performed,” Scott said, referring to a test that is both far more sensitive and way more expensive, in the range of several hundred dollars.

In June 2006, the lab performed the CIR test. Bingo. A positive test.

Why did USADA ask for the further analysis that led to the positive?

In another set of stipulated facts, the answer:

At that same 2003 world indoors at which Gatlin won the men’s 60, Michelle Collins won the women’s 200. Her 22.18 would have been an American record but it was never ratified. Instead, after being linked to the BALCO matter, she admitted using illicit substances. Ultimately, she would get a lengthy suspension.

In May 2004, Collins told USADA that Trevor Graham, her former coach, “told her to appear at track events with no drug testing and to use fast-acting drugs to avoid detection.”

She last trained with Graham in 2001, before Gatlin met up with Graham, the legal document stresses.

USADA “considered this information provided by Michelle Collins and decided to test at the 2006 Kansas Relays, an event at which it had not previously tested,” the document says.

Travis Tygart of USADA // Getty Images

In late 2005, USADA notified USA Track & Field and Kansas Relays organizers it would be testing that next April at the meet.

Gatlin was picked for testing after his relay team won first place; he had run the anchor leg. “This selection” for testing “was in accordance with USADA’s routine selection criteria for track and field relay events,” the document says.

When he was on the road, Gatlin had a reputation as the room service king.

He testified, “I have this paranoia about people messing with my food, or especially, from the first incident where I don’t like to let people do anything orally to my food, and my water, and I don’t like people touching my stuff or around me.”

On June 15, 2006, the room service king, ever careful, learned in a three-way call — with his agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, and his parents — that he had tested positive at the Kansas Relays.

Gatlin testified:

“It was a nightmare that I live again, from my first situation, and I found, I prided myself, I would never put myself in that situation again, and it happened to me again, and I remember the only thing that I kept saying over and over was that my life was over. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, because, running is, running is what I love. I love to run. And I never would do anything like that, because I know I have the support of my family and my friends.”

Jeanette Gatlin, in testimony, asked if Justin had ever said “that he knowingly took a substance”:

“Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. He kept on saying, ‘I don’t know how this happened. I don’t know how this happened. I’m careful. I watch everything. I know one thing: I’m dead.’ That’s all my child kept saying, was that he was dead. He was dead.”

Asked what he did in the weeks between when he found out he had tested positive, and July 29, when word went out to the media, Gatlin responded, “Other than cry?”

Jeanette Gatlin was asked if the experience had taken a toll on her son:

“Most definitely. Most definitely.

“When Justin came home,” to Florida from the Sprint Capitol base in Raleigh, “before we went back and relocated him, Justin would be sleeping, you could hear him at night. You could hear him, he just uh-huh, ugh-huh, ugh-huh, you go in there and he is just jumping. He is just jumping. He is cold and sweaty, and he’s crying, and he’s breaking down, when you talk to him, in the daytime, baby, think about it, think about what happened, he just breaks down, he starts crying and he’s shaking and falling apart. He’s not sleeping at night. He’s restless, I’m going through getting up all time of night, going in there and [checking] on him.”

She also testified, “Not only has my child, Justin Gatlin, suffered and [is] still suffering, his name, his reputation. We have all suffered. We have all suffered. I have — I’m bald, not by choice. This is the haircut that anybody that knows me has never seen on me before. I have long hair. My hair was coming out in clumps. I had to go and have my hair cut off through the stress of this. I have never suffered high blood pressure before until this.

“Justin — Justin walks tall, and he’s strong, and he’s strong and he’s positive. But he — I see the hurt in him. I see how he’s just, well, can — Momma, can I buy a pair of jeans? Can I buy a pair of jeans? Do we have money? Can I buy a pair of jeans?”

Gatlin, left, lifting weights with Isiah Young

Nehemiah testified that the second test cost Gatlin “5, 6 million dollars.” Gatlin, Nehemiah said, had  grossed $1.549 million in 2005; projections in 2006 alone, the agent said, were for “anywhere from $2.5 to $3 million” in 2006 alone. Owing to the positive test, Nehemiah said, Gatlin’s 2006 gross: $280,235.

After winning 2004 Olympic gold, Nehemiah said, there had been a meeting with Gatlin, his parents and officials from both Nike and USATF, a “coming-to-Jesus talk.” He said the tenor of the conversation went like this: “OK. You are no longer Justin Gatlin. You are the United States of America. And everywhere you go, you go this great site, and everybody likes you so, you know, there’s a lot that’s being put on your shoulders.”

“Did he embrace that burden?” Nehemiah was asked.

“He embraced it, yes, wholeheartedly.”

Jeanette Gatlin continued: “You know, he’s suffering,” referring to her son. “He doesn’t know where he’s going to get another paycheck, what’s going to happen and how he’s going to continue to live.

“This,” she said, “is his life.”

Shortly after news of the positive test broke, the Escambia County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department asked if Justin could come speak to their graduating cadets. You’re aware, Jeanette Gatlin said, of the case? Yes, came the answer, she said, relating that this nonetheless was the response: “We want Justin to come. We believe in him. We have faith in him.”

He ended up speaking to that cadet class; too, to 4,000 students, high school and college, about the D.A.R.E. anti-drug program, with his mother saying “it was the biggest turnout they ever had”; to church groups — “not our church,” Jeanette Gatlin stressed — where “he spoke to them, and he read from the Bible, and he told them to obey the parents, obey the laws, stay away from drugs, keep their body clean. Keep their minds straight, keep them focused.”

Justin Gatlin spoke as well with Jeff Novitzky, the-then federal agent running the BALCO inquiry. On August 16, 2006, Gatlin met with Novitzky for five and a half hours in New York, voluntarily traveling to the meeting from Florida. At the end of that interview, Novitzky asked Gatlin to make undercover phone calls to Graham, as a means both to judge Gatlin’s credibility and to potentially gather evidence against Graham.

Gatlin agreed.

The former federal agent Jeff Novitzky // Getty Images

In all, Gatlin would make roughly a dozen calls to Graham and Randall Evans, an assistant coach. Throughout, the authorities viewed Gatlin as a cooperating witness.

Novitzky would testify as well.

This exchange, with Tygart:

“Well, did you ask him if he used any prohibited substances?

“Yes.”

“And what was his response to that?"

“His answer was no, never knowingly."

Novitzky also offered this assessment, referring to Gatlin, “Again to the best of my ability, and as I have testified before, throughout this case, I have not obtained any evidence, despite these hiccups and despite these concerns, looking back now historically, I have not obtained any evidence of his knowing receipt and use of banned substances.”

Thus the core question: what happened that prompted the 2006 positive test?

The dog-ate-the-homework theory that got advanced is that masseuse Chris Whetstine rubbed a cream containing steroids on Gatlin.

Where did this story come from?

Gatlin, in testimony, referring to Graham: “He said that he went and looked at the Internet to find out what the cream was that he thought Chris Whetstine used, and he came across DHEA,” banned as  a testosterone precursor.

A moment later, in further testimony: “He said that while Chris was applying the cream on me in Kansas that he saw a — I think he said a pink tube, a white tube and a pink squiggle on it,” purportedly made by Sarati Laboratories, “and he went back and referenced that, and he came up with DHEA.”

Asked if Graham’s “speculation” was “accurate or not,” Gatlin testified:

“It’s a very strong speculation, and I wouldn’t say it was a bull’s eye, a bull’s-eye, but I think that — it’s more of an oval-shaped peg than a square peg fitting in a circle.”

Why, he was asked, put so much weight on what Graham would assert?

“Well, to do research on it, especially doing research with my lawyer at that point in time … we researched DHEA, and some of the stuff that we learned about it, and kind of went along with the story of what happened.”

Gatlin was asked, did you see the tube Whetstine had? No.

Did you ask to see it? No.

So, “you didn’t hear about the tube with the squiggly S on it until after you had been reported positive, correct?” Yes.

“… And the only person that you heard that from was Trevor Graham, correct?” Yes.

Graham did not testify in this hearing. Nor, for that matter, did Evans.

But Whetstine did.

Referring to Graham, Whetstine said, “Well, golly, I thought I was … I mean, in 2006, I would have to say it was probably the best year in our relationship that we ever had. We would go on long walks together, talked about politics, religion, he showed an immense amount of concern for Justin Gatlin in trying to keep him on focused [sic] and on track, so that we could attain our goal."

Answering questions from Tygart:

“Do you have any knowledge of how Justin Gatlin tested positive?"

“None, sir."

“Did you apply any prohibited substances to Mr. Gatlin?"

“No, sir."

“Did you apply testosterone cream to Mr. Gatlin?"

“No, sir."

More:

“When you heard of Justin Gatlin’s positive tests, what came to your mind as the possibility of how this occurred?"

“I had no idea. I had no idea how it could have occurred."

“Did you do any introspection as to whether anything you did might have caused this?"

“Well, I knew that nothing that I did would have inadvertently caused it."

Later, in an exchange with one of the arbitrators supervising the case:

“Have you heard of Sarati Laboratories?"

“No, sir."

“Have you heard of a cream, Deep Hydrating Essential Aloe Cream?"

“Only after this investigation."

“Did you ever have any tubes that were white tubes with pink squiggles or stylized letter S's on them?"

“No. I can provide you a little insight into — I’m going to step out on a limb here, and call it Mr. Graham’s alibi. And let you know — I want to be careful, because I don’t want to be inflammatory.

“I’m a pretty big supporter of Justin Gatlin, and I don’t want to believe that Justin did anything wrong, OK?

“But in the light of the truth and fairness, where they’re concocting this story from is that my sponsor Biotone, OK? There’s a — I am given a product to distribute from Biotone, BioFreeze, to athletes and therapists; not only therapists that are under my direction, but other therapists, who would be, you know, ostensibly of some notoriety, if they were to be making a plane trip from one place to another.

“And one of the bottles that Biotone has — I think it’s called the Dual Purpose Massage Cream, a product that I don’t use. I use an oil, which I may have already described in my testimony. And this Biotone Dual Purpose Massage Cream has a pink band on it. 

“And so, somehow, they have leapt from the Prefontaine Classic," an annual track meet in Eugene, Oregon, "which is probably, I think, June 7th — some time in early June when that product first showed up for distribution to my staff, courtesy of Biotone, and something that they claim that happened months prior.

“It’s a product I don’t even use. It’s solely for distribution to my staff."

“… But you don’t know that the Dual Purpose Massage Cream that you have described contains any prohibited substance?"

“If that were the case, every athlete at the Prefontaine Classic that year would have tested positive."

“Why is that so? Because you said you don’t use it."

“Because I distribute it to 17 other therapists. I give out a goodie bag that has all Biotone and Biofreeze products, PowerBar and literature from StrongLite …"

Whetstine also testified that in May 2004, he went with Evans to a pharmacy in Monterrey, Mexico, where he — Whetstine — bought Voltaren cream, an Advil-like anti-inflammatory that is not uncommon in American track and field circles, even though it’s not typically available in the United States.

“And I would like to note at that time,” Whetstine testified, “I watched the witness Randall Evans buy pure testosterone.”

At a different point in the hearing, Whetstine was asked by another of the arbitrators to elaborate.

“You made a reference to Randall Evans purchasing testosterone in Mexico?"

“Yes."

“Do you know what he was using that testosterone for?"

“Well, he told me it was for sexual performance. I don’t care what he was using it for. I was furious. He — I was livid."

“This was in 1998?"

“No, this was in 2004, yeah, because he was in Mexico in 2003 and we went back in 2004. And as he was purchasing two packages that had 8 vials apiece. I mean, he was saying it was for topical application for sexual enhancement. And these were bottles — you know, like they have the — like a skinny neck, like a tight neck with a — like an aluminum cap? And that to me means that — that’s like what you see in the hospital. I mean, that’s something that you can inject in somebody.

“And I was furious. And as he was paying for it, I left. I wanted nothing to do with that and told him so. Made sure that I was not in the airport with him, that we left on — you know, did not arrive at the same time for our departures, called my girlfriend — actually, on Justin Gatlin’s phone, called my girlfriend, expressed that I was furious.

“And she inquired about it, and you know, I get — it does have some levity to it. She said, well, if that’s what he’s saying, honey, you don’t need any of that stuff. I mean, she was joking with me."

“So why were you furious?"

“I was extremely furious at why — you know, I was furious."

“Why were you furious?"

“He’s buying testosterone, sir. That’s a prohibited substance. I don’t want any exposure or knowledge of anything."

“So I mean, were you — did you consider that he was buying it for other athletes?"

“I didn’t care what he was doing. I didn’t want him doing it in front of me."

“When you say it’s a prohibited substance, I’m a little bit — it was legal for him to buy that in Mexico, correct?"

“I don’t know. You know, the story is you can get whatever you want in Mexico, and his wife is Spanish. He actually says his wife works for the FBI, was his claim, and she was an FBI agent and was bilingual, and so, I guess he had some lingo, but — what was the question?"

“Well, I guess I’m just trying to figure out — I’m trying to figure out why were you furious? It seems to me if he was buying it for himself, it would be OK. If he was in Mexico, obviously, he shouldn’t be transporting it across the border.”

“But if he was buying it for other people, it seems to me — especially for athletes — that would be a valid reason for being furious."

“Sir? My integrity, hard work and my word are all that I have to go on in this business. I do not want to be exposed to, have knowledge of any illegal activity, OK? And I don’t care what he’s buying it for. I don’t care what he’s buying it for. OK?"

Gatlin had long had problems with tweaky hamstrings. That was the case in the spring of 2006. HIs right hamstring was not responding.

Red blood cells take oxygen to the muscles. When the body can’t make enough red blood cells, one response is to take vitamin B12.

Taking the vitamin B12 orally was not doing the job, Gatlin testified. So he asked a doctor what to do; the doctor recommended a B12 injection directly into the hamstring itself.

It is also the case — well-known in the appropriate circles — that administering testosterone directly would help in recovery.

Who, Gatlin was asked on the record, did he talk with about the prospect of getting a B12 shot?

Graham, Evans and, as well, another sprinter who at one time was in the Sprint Capitol camp.

On April 6 or 7, Gatlin testified, he got a shot of what he believed to be B12.

At his house. From Evans. With Graham in attendance.

Whose idea was it, Gatlin was asked, to get a B12 shot? To ask the doctor about such a shot?

Graham, Gatlin testified.

“Did you — was it normal for you to get any sort of a shot by Randall Evans?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Had you ever gotten a shot from Randall Evans?”

“No.”

“Were you concerned about getting a shot from Randall Evans?”

No, because the doctor had “explained to me,” Gatlin said, “that Randall Evans was taking classes to become more medically inclined under his wing …”

“Before Mr. Evans injected you in your hamstring,” Gatlin was also asked, “did you ask him whether he had ever injected performance-enhancing substances into any athletes?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I didn’t believe he did. It was a B12 — sitting right here, it’s a B12 shot. That’s why I was concerned about my leg. I was concerned if he was juicing up some of the athletes that I didn’t know.”

At another point in the testimony:

“… You are a gold medalist, double world champion, and you allow this person, who is learning to give injections, to inject you in your hamstring while you are injured?”

“He wasn’t a person who was learning. He was my assistant coach.”

At the same time, Gatlin also sought to depict himself as not completely trusting of Evans. Before submitting to the injection, Gatlin said, he looked at the package: “It was a white box, and it said B12, and it said ‘Vitamins’ right across the front of it. It was an unopened package. It was sealed, and so was — the needle was also sealed,” just “a regular needle.”

A B12 injection comes as a clear red liquid solution. The red is vivid.

Crucially, Gatlin was never asked whether that B12 shot was red — neither by his own lawyer or on cross-examination.

Moreover, B12 injections are typically administered via the buttocks or shoulder, areas less susceptible to pain.

The day after the B12 shot, Gatlin did testify, he took a Voltaren pill — supplied, he said, by Evans.

The pill and shot came about a week before the Mt. SAC meet in California. There, Gatlin ran a relay leg; his team took second.

A week later: the Kansas Relays.

After Mt. SAC, Gatlin testified, he felt like he was back to 100 percent.

Again, Evans did not testify. Nor did the doctor.

Novitzky, meanwhile, was on the stand for this from USADA’s Tygart: “OK. Agent Novitzky, have you — are you aware that Randall Evans has denied giving an injection of B12?”

Objections came from both Gatlin’s lawyer and from government attorneys, and the question never did get answered.

Novitzky did testify that during that five hour-plus interview, Gatlin “categorized the pill .. as a ‘Voltaren bean.’ When myself and my partner heard the word ‘bean’ used — based on our investigation to that period of time, we had heard testosterone and Decadron,” a corticosteroid, “being referred to as a ‘bean,’ so it kind of spurred our interest when we heard that.”

During that interview, Gatlin was asked to describe the pill.

Novitzky testified, “He described it as green with a V on it.”

He added, “This wasn’t an instance where we just left it. We followed up and said, ‘Are you sure that’s what it looked like?’

“He said, ‘Yeah, he was sure it was green with a V on it.’

“We came to find out later, much later, months, maybe a year later, that he told someone else that the pill was brown, and brown is the color of these testosterone and Decadron pills, so we had some concern about that.

“We actually had Mr. Gatlin, his mother and [Gatlin’s lawyer] on a phone call, and brought that to their attention. They did come up with an explanation about his confusion regarding the coloring, and that he had been taking an Excedrin, which was a green, but these Voltaren pills that he had been taking all along were brown. You know a little bit unclear, where that leaves him, you know, in the credibility issue in that department.”

Another matter of credibility, Novitzky said, related to Angel “Memo” Heredia, long believed in track circles to be a chemist of considerable repute — who, as Nehemiah related it in testimony, “was not a Trevor Graham fan.”

Nehemiah, saying he was seeking answers to how Gatlin could have tested positive, commissioned Heredia to write a report.

Ultimately, Nehemiah said, the report “wasn’t comprehensive at all,” describing it as a “waste of our time.”

The report, after much negotiating, cost $10,000. But because of an accounting glitch, Heredia got paid $10,600.

“The Memo memo,” as it came to be called, ultimately made its way to Novitzky. From the agent’s point of view, the concern was simple: the government had no idea initially that Gatlin’s entourage had retained Heredia.

“This was all unbeknownst to us,” Novitzky said. “He didn’t — we found out about this second-hand, not from them. And that was a big issue toward us, in terms of, you know, cooperation and credibility, because typically, when we’re dealing with cooperators and looking at these issues, you know, one of the issues with a cooperator is full disclosure of everything.

“And while we did get some explanation that they weren’t sure that we needed to know this, and they thought we already knew some of this, the bottom line, it was not the case that they told us this was going on when it was going on. So that was another issue that came into play.”

It might be reasonable to assume that Gatlin would — in his own case — get some benefit from cooperating with Novitzky and the feds. In fact, he got none.

The majority of the three-member arbitration panel that heard the case noted it “finds much merit in Mr. Gatlin’s position and the facts of his cooperation, which were substantiated by the pertinent government witness, supports the extensive, voluntary and unique nature of Mr. Gatlin’s assistance.”

Even so, the rule at instance was super-precise: “substantial assistance” had to result directly in an anti-doping agency “discovering or establishing” doping by another person.

Yes, Gatlin cooperated, USADA acknowledged; yes, he took considerable risk; but, no, the dozen or so phone calls didn’t lead directly to any such violation.

As far as the Whetstine theory, the panel majority said, “the fact is that there is no substantiation of Mr. Gatlin’s naked claim.” It added, “There was no evidence that any of the creams used by the physical therapist actually tested positive.”

It said, “More importantly, the evidence submitted by Mr. Gatlin did not eliminate the possibility of intentional use or the possibility that he was the unwitting victim of doping by members of his coaching staff.”

Further, “Simply stated, this Panel does not know with any degree of confidence how the testosterone entered Mr. Gatlin’s system; transdermally or by pill or injection.”

That being the case, it said, “USADA makes a strong argument. If Mr. Gatlin cannot prove how the testosterone entered his system, and he did not, he cannot prove two significant facts. First, that it was the physical therapist that placed the testosterone in his system transdermally; and second, that he did not intentionally take testosterone.”

“Finally,” it said, “while Mr. Gatlin seems like a complete gentleman, and was genuinely and deeply upset during his testimony, the Panel cannot eliminate the possibility that Mr. Gatlin intentionally took testosterone, or accepted it from a coach, even though he testified to the contrary.”

It gave him four years off.

A 2008 review by another three-member panel, this one from the Swiss-based Court of Appeal for Sport, left it at that: four years.

Those four years, Gatlin said in an interview, were miserable. He moved to Atlanta and, to make money, taught sprinting to 8-year-olds.

“One thing I learned on my journey and it’s really true, kids are the least judgmental. Kids looked at me and never brought up any incident, never questioned anything, and they said, ‘Mr. Gatlin, I am just trying to get fast like you. Teach me.' ”

There was that. But he said, “I lost every endorsement. I lost everything.”

He also said, “I was so depressed, Me, my mother and my father, we are a core. We became stronger when i went through my ordeal. Going through the ordeal broke us down. My mother lost hair. For a woman, that’s a big thing. She prayed every day to the point where she was like, what is prayer doing? Nothing is being answered! She doubted her faith.

“I would honestly say my dad was more depressed than anybody. His son carries his name and gave him the most pride, and to go through what I went through made him so depressed. He didn’t talk a lot.”

As for Justin Gatlin himself, during those four years, he said, “I think that’s where track Justin met real Justin.

“It’s not a cliché to speak in the third-person sometime. I have to tell you how I experienced it. I didn’t see any worth my life. I wasn’t running. I wasn’t being acknowledged. I was looked upon as the bad guy. I was ready to enlist in the Army. I was ready to become a police officer. This is real: if I die, if I took a bullet, at least I took it for something I believe in — America.

“I have never been a person to have suicidal thoughts. But I said, ‘What is the worth of my life? Who am I?’ That’s when I had to say: ‘There is more to Justin than just running.’ “

It was with that attitude that Gatlin came back to the sport in 2010.

He worked himself back to a bronze at the 2012 London Games in the 100, behind Bolt.

The turning point came the next year, at the 2013 worlds in Moscow. The 100 went down in a pouring rainstorm. Bolt won, again, in 9.77, crossing the finish at the precise moment lightning flashed across the sky — an incredible, indeed indelible, picture.

That frame also shows Gatlin. He is behind Bolt, and to the Jamaican’s left. Gatlin would finish second, eight-hundredths back, 9.85.

Usain Bolt winning the 2013 100 meters in Moscow as lightning flashes, Gatlin eight-hundredths of a second back // Getty Images

Sprint coach (and former champion) Dennis Mitchell

Gatlin said, “I don’t want to step out of my boundaries and my respect for other opponents [but] when I look at that picture, that’s when I said to myself, ‘I think I can beat this guy. I can challenge this guy outright.’ “ 

To do so, however, he had to submit — to his coach, Dennis Mitchell. Gatlin said he had to accept Mitchell’s word as gospel, to let technique do the work for him in his races.

Until that lightning flash in 2013, Gatlin said, he had — whether consciously or not — been trying to do it his way. From that moment on, he said, it has been Mitchell’s way.

Mitchell typically draws a torrent of criticism from those who know he, too, tested positive during his days as a champion sprinter. There’s a back story there, though. Mitchell tested positive for what he relates as inadvertent use of DHEA. But who voluntarily testified for the government in its investigation of Graham? Among others, Mitchell.

Mitchell said, "I testified under oath in front of the feds that Trevor Graham coerced me into taking growth hormone."

He also said, “When you are dealing with the federal government the first thing you don’t do is lie. Because they will get you.”

“I was a witness for the good guys,” he added. “I wasn’t prosecuted. I wasn’t threatened. I wasn’t put on trial for lying. I was a 20-minute witness for the federal government, against Trevor Graham, to tell everything about my life and his life that would incriminate him. That’s what I did. And I took a hit for the good guys.

“And I knew that when I did that, either the sport was going to herald me as a good guy or they were going to kick me out as a villain. I rolled the dice. I said,’Dennis, everything you have been through in the sport, all the great achievements you have had in the sport, the sport will not turn its back on you.’ "

Doing what Mitchell says, Gatlin has not lost since the end of 2013. This year, he has run 9.74 in the 100, 19.57 in the 200.

The American records: 9.69 (Tyson Gay, Shanghai, 2009), 19.32 (Michael Johnson, Atlanta Olympics, 1996).

Under Mitchell's direction, Gatlin has lost roughly 30 pounds; the science of sprinting increasingly has come to recognize that leg strength -- not being top-heavy -- is what counts. He also has worked in the weight room to re-make his slimmer self and at improving his start.

"I wear medium shirts now," Gatlin said of his weight loss. "A large would be hanging off."

"Any person who has watched this kid, who knows track and field, can see the technique changes," Mitchell said, adding a moment later, "2014 is the year he woke up smart. He put his mind to it and went for it."

“When I step on the track, my percentage of worrying about opponents in the race has dropped significantly,” Gatlin said. “All I worry about is executing my technique, executing my race strategy and competing against time.”

He also said, “I feel there’s a difference between being in the zone and being dialed in. I have learned that the last two years. The zone is good; a lot of athletes are in the zone. But when you are in the zone there still can come a lot of variables; you can still worry about certain opponents, about what can go wrong. When you are dialed in, you worry about one thing,” execution of race strategy, “and that one thing will handle everything else.”

As an example, he said, “If you look back at all the races I have had just this year, if you look back with a careful eye, you will see difference. From the 19.68 I ran,” a 200 last July 18 at a Diamond League meet in Monaco, “to the 19.57,” this June 28 at the U.S. nationals, "the end of my race and my last 100 meters was way more relaxed, way more turnover.

‘I wasn’t fighting my technique. I just let my technique turn over. In my 19.68 race, I was more worried about running the curve.”

In his home bathroom, Gatlin said, he has hung what he calls a “vision board,” posts of what he wants to achieve. On the board, he said, are the times 19.30 and 9.68.

“At one point in time, my vision board was names. I have changed that. Now it’s numbers. Now it opens up a different door.”

Anything is possible in track and field, which for years and years has been marred by doping, and at the highest levels. As difficult as it may be for some skeptics, indeed cynics, the matter is straightforward: to believe that Justin Gatlin is doping is to believe he does not want to go through that door.

To assume that Gatlin is cheating is to believe he would risk his new Nike deal. Mitchell, too, has a new deal, and he and his wife have a baby. The mortgage gets tough to pay when there's no income.

Beyond all that, to believe that Gatlin is doping is to say he wants to stumble back to the wilderness — lost, angry, the sort of son who would disrespect his parents, who would make his mother’s hair fall out again, who would risk the certainty of a third strike and a lifetime away from the very thing that gives him so much joy, indeed meaning, in life.

Which seems more logical? Which more reasonable?

“I found me,” Gatlin said of his four years away.

He said, “I had to step back and realize, you know, just because everyone doesn’t agree with what I am doing doesn’t mean they are against me.

“Just because someone doesn’t step up doesn’t mean they aren’t for me.”

Not just three dopers -- at least four!

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Do you believe in redemption, and the power of second chances? Or was what went down Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, just the saddest of all possible advertisements for track and field? Three dopers, all American, went 1-2-3 Thursday in the sport’s glamor event, the men’s 100 meters, at the Lausanne Diamond League event: Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers.

Justin Gatlin (left) wins the men's 100 in Lausanne over Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers // photo Getty Images

Consider just some of these other first-rate performances Thursday at the Athletissima meet, as the Lausanne stop is known:

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt went under 44 seconds in the men’s 400, James winning in a world-leading 43.74 seconds, Merritt in a season-best 43.92. The women’s 100 saw a sub-11: both Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad & Tobago and Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast timed in 10.98, Ahye getting the photo finish.

Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic threw the javelin 66.72 meters, or 218 feet, 10 inches.

An 18-year-old Kenyan, Ronald Kwemoi, ran a personal-best 3:31.48 to take out Silas Kiplagat and others in winning the men’s 1500.

In the men’s high jump, Bogdan Bondarenko and Andriy Protsenko, both of Ukraine, went 2.40m, or 7-10 1/2. There have now been 50 2.40m-plus jumps in history; 12 have been in 2014.

And yet — what’s the headline from Thursday in Lausanne?

You bet.

Gatlin ran 9.8 to win, his second-fastest time ever, off his personal best by just one-hundredth of a second. Gay, in his first race back after a year away because of suspension, went 9.93. Rodgers, who last week won the U.S. nationals in Sacramento, ran a season-best 9.98.

Ah, but it doesn’t end there.

Typically, of the eight guys in a 100-meter final, it’s not unreasonable — at least since 1988, and Ben Johnson — to wonder, how many might be dopers?

In this instance, we have at least an inkling, and it wasn’t just three.

It was four!

To the inside of Gay in Lane 2, Rodgers in 3 and Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion — all decked out for the Fourth of July in red, white and blue — in Lane 4, we present Pascal Mancini of Switzerland, in Lane 1. He finished eighth, in 10.43.

Mancini was busted for nandrolone.

Rodgers tested positive for a stimulant and drew a nine-month ban.

Gatlin served a four-year ban between 2006 and 2010 for testosterone.

Gay tested positive for an anabolic steroid last summer. He received a reduced one-year suspension for cooperating with USADA. Neither the IAAF nor WADA appealed.

What Gay told USADA — and in particular about Jon Drummond, who trained Gay from 2007 until just after the 2012 Olympics, and has for years been an influential figure in USA Track and Field circles — remains unclear.

Drummond is such a key figure that he served on the USATF panel that released its findings Thursday about the disqualification controversies at the indoor nationals in February in Albuquerque.

Drummond, meanwhile, has filed a defamation lawsuit in Texas state court against USADA; its chief executive, Travis Tygart; and Gay. That case is likely on its way out of state court and en route to federal court.

After Thursday’s 100 in Lausanne, Gay told reporters, “It’s been a little bit tough training, a lot of stress but I made it through.”

Gay had not met with reporters before the meet. Gatlin did, and was in something of a philosophical way:

“My journey rebuilding my career has been an eye-opening experience,” he said. “It let me understand what real life was about outside track and field. I was basically sheltered by track and field all the way from high school, got a full scholarship to college, two years in college, turned professional, one of the highest-paid post-collegiate athletes. Then I didn’t run for four years, so I was able to understand what being a man in the real world is about, and struggles, and once I came back to the sport, I was grateful.

“I wish him [Gay] luck because it can be a stressful time, not only on the track but what the media thinks about you, what personal [things] people think about you and how they look at you. It’s going to be with him for the rest of his career. I’ve been back in track longer now than for how long I was away for and every year I’ve got better and better. That’s only been my focus and maybe he can take a lesson from that, or if he wanted to go his own path.

“I haven’t talked to him, I’ve seen him around but I haven’t talked to him. It’s that competitive edge and competitive spirit but we give each other gentlemanly nods.”

As should be obvious, track and field has many, many issues.

It also has incredible strengths. It is universal. It is elemental. It is primal.

For these strengths to come through, the sport must be able to assert its credibility.

The only way that can happen is for fans to believe what they are seeing is real.

When a race like the Lausanne men’s 100 goes down, it can be a huge turnoff. No two ways about it.

The tension, of course, is that Gatlin, Gay, Rodgers, Mancini and who knows who else have a right to make a living.

“Why are we saying this race should not be happening?” Gatlin had said beforehand. “It is because of my past discretions, because then I shouldn’t have been at the worlds and shouldn’t have been at the Olympics if that’s the case. Or is it all on what he’s done thus far? I have no power to say what races he can be in and what he can’t be in. I’m just here on my own to win and to run. If he’s here and I line up against him I can’t complain and moan about it, I’ve just got to go out there and do my job.”

There’s another tension, too, and it was beautifully described by the former Irish steeplechase record-holder Roisin McGettigan, who found out this week that she was being upgraded to a bronze medal at the 2009 European indoor championships.

“That’s the thing about doping,” McGettigan told an Irish newspaper, “it makes clean athletes doubt what they’re doing. You train harder to try and reach their standards,” meaning athletes suspected of using illicit performance-enhancing drugs, “and that often leads to injuries or illness.”

Which leads, perhaps in a meandering fashion, perhaps not, to the men’s 200 Thursday in Lausanne.

In May, Yohan Blake, the 2011 100 world champion, had run a spectacular anchor leg, an unofficial 19-flat, to power the Jamaican team to a world-record 1:18.63 in the 4x200 relay in the Bahamas.

On Thursday, Panama’s Alonso Edward won the 200, in 19.84.

Blake, who likes to call himself the Beast, got off to an indifferent start Thursday, and that’s being gracious. He faded down the stretch. He finished sixth, in 20.48.

Nickel Ashmeade of Jamaica took second, in 20.06. France’s Christophe Lemaitre got third, in a season-best 20.11, and as he went by Blake, he gave him a stare, like, what is up, dude?

Blake trains with Usain Bolt, with coach Glen Mills. Blake suddenly looks awfully, well, un-Beast-ly. Bolt has yet to appear this summer.

At the end of last July, the world found out, thanks to World Anti-Doping Agency statistics, how minimally Jamaican sprinters had been tested and, in turn, how lax the Jamaican anti-doping program had been.

Now, in summer 2014: is it just that those Jamaican yams simply aren’t doing the job?

Or is there a different truth waiting to emerge?

UCI's belated preemptive strike

Cycling's international governing body, which goes by the acronym UCI, "did not protect" Lance Armstrong as he cheated his way to the seven Tour de France titles that have since been stripped from him, a new file prepared by the federation asserts. "Every decision by the UCI concerning Armstrong -- and indeed every other rider -- was taken in compliance with the known facts and with the science available at the time," says the file, sent out Monday to national cycling federation presidents, describing the UCI as a "pioneer" in the anti-doping campaign and "at the forefront" of "many new technical advances."

In an accompanying letter, UCI president Pat McQuaid declares, "For the past 20 years, the UCI has done everything possible in tackling the scourge of doping in sport."

The exuberance of these declarations, and the timing of the file, must be understood in context. McQuaid is in a reelection campaign, and most of the Olympic world, including the International Olympic Committee executive board, will be gathering in two weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia, for what's called the SportAccord convention.

Pardon the oxymoron but this is, in essence, a belated preemptive strike.

Belated, of course, because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's so-called "Reasoned Decision," which lays out the case against Armstrong in breathtaking fashion, came out last October.

Then, in January, came Armstrong's televised confession with Oprah Winfrey.

Now, for a variety of reasons, it's in McQuaid's interest in particular for UCI to appear transparent.

He says in the cover letter that UCI "remains committed" to an "independent audit' of UCI's "behavior and practices" during "the Armstrong years.  Armstrong won seven straight Tours de France, 1999-2005, retired, then raced again in the Tour in 2009 and 2010.

Further, McQuad says in the letter, "I can also confirm that the UCI has agreed to release all test data in our possession concerning Armstrong to both WADA," the World Anti-Doping Agency, "and USADA."

And, he says, UCI is discussing with WADA "a process that will allow a full examination of doping in the peloton in the past so that we can learn all the lessons that need to be [learned.]"

The 14-page file itself covers a range of topics that by now are familiar elements of the Armstrong tale, traversing the 1999 test for corticosteroids at the Tour de France to and through Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and Armstrong's two donations to UCI.

"Many of the allegations leveled at the UCI have been comprehensively answered and debunked," the file says on page one.

The issue, of course, is whether this file -- in its bid to relay the truth -- tells the whole story. As the file circulated Monday around the world, there were those who found plenty to question.

Travis Tygart, the chief executive officer of USADA, called it "simply another political move full of self-serving excuses and rationalizations and not the decisive action UCI promised the world over seven months ago now."

Tygart called the file "a 14-page letter with no evidence," issued "in response to more than a decade of a corrupt culture of drug use," and  labeled it " nothing short of shameful."

As an example of whether the file merely relays events but also fixes them in the big picture, consider the matter of Armstrong's 2001 Tour of Switzerland tests.

Armstrong was tested five times in that race. Three of those five samples were tested for EPO, the blood-booster erythropoietin. All were negative. Two, though, came back with notes from the lab as "strong suspicion" for EPO with numerical readings of 75.1 and 70.0; a positive reading was 80.0.

It is therefore "clear and irrefutable," the file says, that the UCI did not conceal anything.

True.

At the same time, as other UCI documents have also made clear, Dr. Leon Schattenberg, a member of the UCI anti-doping commission, told Armstrong and then-U.S. Postal Service team leader Johan Bruyneel of the suspicious test results a few days later, at the 2001 Tour de France.

This was a "normal" UCI policy at the time, "done so that the rider, if he was indeed doping, would stop doing so and the other competitors would be protected," according to UCI documents.

Armstrong "asserted strongly" that it was "completely impossible" for him to have produced a suspicious test as he "categorically denied doping," and went on to question the EPO test itself, as those documents relate.

The entire 2001 Swiss affair galls UCI critics.

They ask: if you were serious about doping, if you were genuinely a "pioneer," what would you do about a competitor -- indeed, the sport's star rider -- who was "strongly suspicious"? Would you essentially give him a field course about how the latest new test works and how close he was to flunking it -- and thus about how, if he were smart, he had better get back in line?

Or would you, knowing he was "suspicious," wait to actually catch him?

Moreover, wouldn't you want to submit the other two tests at the time for EPO? Or test them later -- as was allowed under the rules -- for EPO? And then, later, when you had reason to know, or at least to believe, that numerous witnesses were testifying to Armstrong's use of EPO, wouldn't you provide that evidence to USADA during its investigation, particularly after repeated requests?

Then there is the matter of Hamilton.

On page 11 of Monday's file, it notes that in 2004 Hamilton was caught blood doping and "concocted a story about a vanishing twin brother," adding, "Had Hamilton not been caught by the UCI, he would never have eventually confessed and then testified against Armstrong."

OK -- except that Hamilton fought the matter for years. A confession was a long time in the making. So was testimony against Armstrong. And then, as the USADA "Reasoned Decision" makes plain, when Hamilton had offered his cooperation to U.S. law enforcement officials, Armstrong told him, "I'm going to make your life a living … f-ing … hell."

The file sent out Monday says it was UCI that in 2006 found out that Landis had tested positive for banned testosterone. "If that had not happened," the file says, "Landis would never have eventually testified against Armstrong."

Except, again, that ignores the ferocity with which Landis fought the charges, indeed the book he wrote denying culpability, the hundreds of thousands of dollars that USADA -- not UCI -- spent prosecuting the case and more. UCI would not even give USADA Landis' test data, which assuredly would have been helpful in the prosecution of the case.

It is perhaps worth recalling that in October, 2012, within a couple weeks after the Reason Decision was issued, McQuaid seemed full of scorn for Landis and Hamilton for providing evidence to USADA about the doping system in place at the U.S. Postal team:

"Landis started it. He was in a bottomless hole and he said the only way out of it was to bring the sport down. That's what he intended doing and what he intends doing but he won't achieve it.

"Another thing that annoys me is that Landis and Hamilton are being made out to be heroes. They are as far from heroes as night and day. They are not heroes, they are scumbags. All they have done is damage the sport."

As for the two donations Armstrong made to the UCI -- the file asserts there is "no relationship" between testing and the money. From the UCI's perspective: Armstrong never tested positive; there was no test to conceal; therefore, how could there be any incentive to conceal any test?

The file adds detail to the donations.

It has long been known that there were two donations, one of $25,000, the other of $100,000.

The $25,000 came in May, 2002. It was used to finance testing in the junior (17-18 year-old) and under-23 (19-22 year-old) ranks, the file says.

Armstrong offered the $100,000 in the first half of 2005, to be used to buy a new Sysmex blood analyzer, which counts reticulocytes, or new blood cells. Such cells can serve as markers for blood doping; an athlete who is using EPO or who is blood transfusing typically would not be producing new blood cells in the normal way.

The UCI bought the machine in July, 2005, paying for it with its own money. That's because, the file says, Armstrong hadn't yet made good on his offer and the machine was "urgently needed for the fight against doping." Armstrong was "reminded of his promise later in 2005 and again in 2006," eventually sending the money in January 2007, a year and a half after he had retired, the file notes.

"With the benefit of hindsight, in particular given his subsequent confessions, it is clear that Armstrong deceived his sport, as well as the UCI, and that it would have been wiser not to have accepted these donations from him."

Which is the issue critics have in the first instance with the donations themselves, right?

"Nevertheless," the file goes on to assert," the donations had no influence on the UCI's testing of Armstrong," nor on any anti-doping entity.

 

No surprise: Armstrong doesn't talk with USADA

Lance Armstrong declined Wednesday to tell what he knows about doping in cycling to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Because here is the critical part. USADA would have had him talk under oath.

So, really, who is surprised?

Armstrong faces potential criminal and civil exposure. No way he was going to talk -- at least not while the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth could be used against him.

Intriguingly, Armstrong -- who sought in his televised interview with Oprah Winfrey to appear at least a little bit humble, a little bit contrite -- seemed through his lawyer, Tim Herman, to revert Wednesday right back to the sort of language that had for years come to characterize his position in dealing with the anti-doping authorities, the press and virtually anyone who challenged him.

Herman's statement started off by saying:

"Lance is willing to cooperate fully and has been very clear: He will be the first man through the door, and once inside will answer every question, at an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport."

Lance willing to cooperate fully? That would appear so commendable, right?

If only it didn't also seem so disingenuous.

For years, Armstrong kept his doping and bullying secret. Now, though, he would now be willing to tell all? Conveniently, he would be doing so at an international tribunal, likely offshore, where the reach of American law would not extend -- and those comments presumably would not be used against him in the same way as if they were made, under oath, back home.

In that way he would be the "first man through the door" and answering "every question"?

Just one further issue.

There is no such international tribunal. None exists. Maybe one will one day or maybe one won't.

It's hard to know, given the complex relationships among cycling's governing body, the UCI -- for which Armstrong has said he currently has little love, given the way it dropped him last fall -- along with the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee.

So, again, what was this about?

And why the reference to cycling being a European sport? Why bring that up? Simply to play to what remains of Lance's American audience? Or -- to whom?

"We remain hopeful," the statement goes on to say, "that an international effort will be mounted, and we will do everything we can to facilitate that result. In the meantime, for several reasons, Lance will not participate in USADA's efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonize selected individuals while failing to address the 95% of the sport over which USADA has no jurisdiction."

Demonize? Selected individuals?

To whom could those words be referring? Lance, obviously, right?

USADA's aim, of course, is full disclosure. It wants to know what he knows. That's just common sense. Wouldn't Armstrong stand to know as much as anyone about how to dope, and get away with it?

Plus, if ever there was a time to get him to talk, now would be it. Armstrong has finally been unveiled as a serial cheater. He has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Moreover, WADA told Armstrong that coming in to talk to USADA was the appropriate thing to do if, as USADA chief executive Travis Tygart put it in a statement of his own Wednesday, "he ever wanted to be part of the solution."

Now, though, look at it from Armstrong's point of view. What did he have to gain from talking with USADA?

In October, in making public the scope and extent of Armstrong's cheating, calling it the "most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen," USADA imposed on Armstrong a lifetime ban.

Armstrong, 41, wants to run in sanctioned triathlons. Cooperation with USADA might -- that's might -- get that life ban reduced to an eight-year ban. That means he'd be almost 50.

For someone used to being in control, used to dictating the terms of how the deal is going to go down, it's hardly surprising Armstrong decided in the end not to talk.

"At this time," Tygart said in his statement, "we are moving forward with our investigation without him and we will continue to work closely with WADA and other appropriate and responsible international authorities …"

That's not surprising, either. This matter is a long, long way from over.