RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin has agreed to a ban of up to eight years from Track and Field for a second failed drug test. He tested positive in April for a banned steroid. In a deal reached with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Gatlin also forfeits the world record in the 100 meters.
This is another blow for a sport that has been tarnished by doping at the top levels. We're joined now by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan. Good morning Christine.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: What happens now to Justin Gatlin?
BRENNAN: He can't run or compete, Renee, for quite a long time. He basically disappears athletically. How long will he be away, we don't know that for sure. But under the terms of this agreement, he can still appeal to an arbitration panel in the next six months to have the eight years reduced, especially because he plans to cooperate with the U.S. Anti-Doping officials, maybe provide them or possibly provide them with information on his coach, Trevor Graham, who's been linked with other positive drug tests, maybe paint a picture of what's going on in track and field to help the authorities catch more cheaters.
MONTAGNE: And remind us of the circumstances of that first positive test. In a sense, how did he get caught?
BRENNAN: It's now deemed an honest mistake. He was in college, and he was - it occurred five years ago - it was for medicine to control attention deficit disorder. It came, as I said, when he was in college. He stopped taking the ADD medicine a few days before competition, Renee, but it did not clear his system.
For that he received a two-year ban for that test, which was reduced by a year because of the quote/unquote exceptional circumstances of the offense.
MONTAGNE: But the second test, of course, is steroids.
BRENNAN: Yes. It is high levels of testosterone, and the same thing that Floyd Landis, the Tour de France winner, has been accused of as well.
MONTAGNE: Now in admitting that he got caught, and accepting this punishment, is Justin Gatlin doing something unusual in sports?
BRENNAN: He sure is, Renee, especially this summer of all summers. As I mentioned, Floyd Landis, the Tour de France winner, he had five different excuses - I believe there were five - within a 48-hour time period in terms of what it was possibly that was in his system. The difference - the dog ate my homework excuse that almost became laughable and very sad for Floyd Landis.
What's happening with Justin Gatlin is he's not wasting the time or the resources of anyone. He's now, you know, said that - acknowledging the test was correct, and of course that's going to be seen very favorably within anti- doping circles in terms of let's move on. Let's, you now, say that you understand this is in your system. Don't fight it, and now let's try to get to a solution so other athlete's may not test positive in the future.
MONTAGNE: But as we said, this is a big hit for track and field. How will it recover from this?
BRENNAN: I'm not sure it does, Renee. This is a very tough time for track and field. In the '60s and '70s, this sport was thriving. On the cover of Sports Illustrated four or five, six times a year great names, Jim Ryan, Steve Prefontaine, Marty Lacorey(ph), names that a lot of sports fans knew; track and field was in its heyday. And now it's almost disappeared.
It's very sad, but I think we can trace it back to 1988; Ben Johnson, the positive drug test in Seoul, South Korea, at those Olympics eighteen years ago. The sport has been really in a tailspin ever since.
MONTAGNE: Christine, thanks for joining us.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Christine Brennan is a columnist for USA Today. She is also the author of Best Seat in the House: A Father, a Daughter, A Journey Through Sports.
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