By Bob Baum
Phoenix - The top assistant to athletics coach Trevor Graham gave United States athlete Justin Gatlin an injection, which he believed to be vitamin B12, two weeks before the world record-sharing sprinter tested positive for banned substances.
After Randall Evans gave Gatlin the injection, the sprinter was given what he was told were anti-inflammatory pills as a follow-up, a person with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press on Monday.
Gatlin said Evans and Graham came to his house and told him the injection could help his troubled hamstring, said the person, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case.
Gatlin answered questions about the injection and medication last week at an arbitration hearing to determine whether a possible eight-year ban should be reduced.
The 100-metre gold medalist at the Athens Olympics, who hopes to run in the 2008 Beijing Games, tested positive for testosterone and steroids last April but has said he doesn't know how banned substances got into his system.
A ruling is not expected for several weeks.
Gatlin's attorney John Collins confirmed Gatlin received an injection and pills. "But we have no reason to believe it was anything other than B12 and Voltaren," he said.
Voltaren is commonly used to treat inflammation.
Evans did not testify at the hearing.
"I chose not to call him," Collins said. "I didn't think he added anything."
Neither Graham nor his attorney returned a call requesting comment. A message left at the home of Gatlin's parents also wasn't returned.
Gatlin's best chance for a reduced ban comes from his undisputed co-operation with federal authorities and the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
The sprinter secretly recorded more than 10 phone calls, most of them with Graham, for the government investigator leading the probe into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, or BALCO - Jeff Novitzky.
Collins declined to say to whom the other calls were made, citing the ongoing criminal investigation. BALCO was a nutritional supplment company in the San Francisco area that developed an undectable steroid, known as "The Clear", and its founder, Victor Conte, later pled guilty to illegal distribution of controlled substances.
"Agent Novitzky testified after reviewing all those calls that there was no evidence Justin ever knowingly received or used any prohibited substance from anyone," Collins said.
The sprinter also has continued to give anti-doping talks at local schools and other gatherings.
Gatlin, Collins said, wants to regain his reputation as much or more than he wants to compete in Beijing.
Gatlin's April 2006 positive test was his second doping offence. His first occurred when he was in college at the University of Tennessee. He stopped taking medicine to treat attention deficit disorder a few days before a competition, but it didn't clear his system, according to the case records. He received a two-year ban, which was reduced by a year because of the "exceptional circumstances".
This time, Gatlin's defence centred not on Evans but masseur Chris Whetstine, who applied a cream to Gatlin during a routine session the day before the positive test.
Gatlin's defence contended that since the sprinter never knowingly took any banned substances, the source must have been Whetstine.
The masseur denied the allegation when it first was suggested by Graham last year and repeated that denial at last week's hearing. He did not return a message left on Monday at his Eugene, Oregon, office.
Graham, whose former pupils include Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, has repeatedly denied ever supplying steroids or other banned substances to athletes.
But he was charged last November with three counts of making false statements to federal agents. The government said Graham lied in 2004 when he denied distributing steroids or telling his athletes where they could get them.
It was Graham who provided the government with its first evidence in the BALCO probe, mailing a vial of "the clear" to USADA.
In Athens, in the immediate aftermath of Gatlin's 100-metre victory, Graham acknowledged he had sent the syringe.
"I was just a coach doing the right thing at the time," he said then.
Asked what Gatlin thinks of Graham now, Collins paused and said "You'd have to ask him." - Sapa-AP