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Track agent accepts 2-year ban for doping talk to reporters

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MONACO (AP) — An athletics agent who was filmed telling undercover reporters he could supply performance enhancing drugs has agreed to a two-year ban in a case that risked implicating Justin Gatlin in doping.

The Athletics Integrity Unit announced the sanction on Monday against Robert Wagner, while accepting he made “misleading and untruthful statements” to secure what he thought was a $250,000 contract for work.

In fallout of reports in 2017 by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, former Olympic and world champion sprinter Gatlin fired his then-coach, Dennis Mitchell, who was implicated in the allegations.

“Mr. Wagner confirmed that he had no further information or any evidence to corroborate his claims that Mr. Justin Gatlin (and ‘everybody else’) was doping at certain points in the season or that Mr. Dennis Mitchell was involved, aware and engaged in doping Mr. Gatlin,” the AIU said in a published judgment.

The newspaper alleged Wagner met reporters at a training camp in Florida, and that he offered to supply and administer testosterone and human growth hormone they said were for an actor training for a film, for a fee of $250,000.

Wagner’s conduct was “extraordinarily unprofessional,” the ruling said. “The statements made by Mr. Wagner to undercover reporters concerned extremely serious matters that presented some of the gravest threats to the integrity of the sport.”

Wagner was given credit for cooperating with an investigation done by the AIU and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

He had been provisionally suspended from the sport since April 2018, and his two-year ban covered time already served.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, served two bans in his career for doping violations. He returned to win 100m medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and the 2017 World title in what was Usain Bolt’s farewell competition.

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Justin Gatlin fires coach, denies doping

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World 100m champion Justin Gatlin fired coach Dennis Mitchell following an undercover investigation reported Tuesday that appeared to show people linked to the sprinter offering to supply performance-enhancing drugs.

“I was shocked and surprised to learn that my coach would have anything to do with even the appearance of these current accusations,” was posted on Gatlin’s Instagram. “I fired him as soon as I found out about this.”

The IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit said it is investigating the allegations in conjunction with the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The report was published in Tuesday’s edition of British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

“These allegations are very serious,” said Brett Clothier, head of the AIU, “and strike at the heart of the integrity of athletics.”

IAAF President Seb Coe said the allegations are “extremely serious.”

The newspaper reported that Mitchell and a track agent, Robert Wagner, met undercover reporters at a training camp in Florida and offered to supply and administer testosterone and human growth hormone for an actor training for a film, for a fee of $250,000.

The newspaper said Mitchell and Wagner were secretly recorded saying the use of banned substances in track was widespread.

Wagner called the newspaper report “deeply flawed” and said it was based on things he said that were not true.

“I made up the comments to impress them, led on by a make-believe scenario,” Wagner said in a statement to The Associated Press. “It was just big talk. I did not actually source or supply the substances the reporters asked for but stupidly claimed I could.”

Wagner also said he notified the Athletics Integrity Unit of the situation four weeks ago.

The 35-year-old Gatlin, who also won the 2004 Olympic 100m, previously served two doping bans.

“I am not using and have not used PEDs,” was posted on Gatlin’s Instagram. “All legal options are on the table as I will not allow others to lie about me like this. I have no further comments as it is now a legal matter. They will next hear from my lawyer.”

Coe said the IAAF has started to focus on the “influences that surround athletes” and stressed that all support personnel are bound by the governing body’s anti-doping code and integrity code of conduct.

Gatlin served a four-year doping ban from 2006 to 2010 after testing positive for excessive testosterone.

He returned to competition, taking Olympic 100m bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016 behind the now-retired Usain Bolt. He has said he plans to go for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Gatlin reportedly worked under Mitchell since November 2011.

Mitchell sprinted in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics and was hit with a two-year ban in 1999 and testified that his coach, Trevor Graham, coerced him into taking growth hormone.

Gatlin was coached by Graham From September 2002 through his 2006 suspension. Graham, the disgraced former coach of Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, was heavily involved in the BALCO drug scandal.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Justin Gatlin’s coach to remain U.S. relays coach for Rio

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Three-time Olympic medalist Dennis Mitchell will remain as a U.S. track and field relays coach through the Rio Olympics after USA Track and Field clarified a rule change, according to Reuters.

Mitchell coaches top U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin and resigned in February as a U.S. relays coach due to a new rule that prohibits the coach of an athlete likely to be part of the relay pool from coaching a relay.

But since Mitchell was a relays coach before the rule was put into place, he will now remain a relays coach through at least the Rio Olympics, according to USA Track and Field.

“Any new provisions for the national relay coach policy, if enacted, will take effect late 2016,” USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer said, according to Reuters. “As a result of the new timeline, Dennis Mitchell will continue to serve as national relay coach through the 2016 Olympic Games, as previously approved by USATF and the USOC.”

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