Elite sport is looking more and more like a
jail yard in which all of the inmates are innocent, despite the evidence
against them.

Last week it was Tour de France winner
Floyd Landis who recorded a higher than legal testosterone count. He fronted
the media to protest his innocence and tell the world he would do everything he
could to clear his name.

Now it’s Justin Gatlin’s turn. Gatlin is
the joint-fastest man on the planet, holding the record (9.77 seconds over 100
metres) with Jamaican Asafa Powell. He too was forced to face the media over
the weekend to acknowledge a failed drug test, and he too maintains his
innocence.

Eager to maintain a consistent line in
convict clichés, Gatlin’s coach is using the “he was framed” defence. “We are 100 percent sure who it is,”
Gatlin’s coach Trevor Graham said.
“The individual that did it, it’s an individual that we fired and we went back
and hired … he came to the Kansas relay and was (upset) with Justin.”

Perhaps
generously, World Anti-Doping Agency Chief Dick Pound said: “If they can find
someone who did, in fact, spike it, then it is for them to prove but short of
something like that I think he has a very serious problem.” And so does world sport, though it’s not a problem fans are losing
too much sleep over. The shock factor of a positive drug test to a top athlete
must be at an all-time low.

Like Gatlin, Landis faces a lengthy battle
to prove his innocence. Even if he can prove his innocence, the damage has
already been done to his own image, to that of the Tour de France, and the sport
of cycling. Likewise athletics. While the struggle these two men face to clear
their names is worthwhile from a personal standpoint, as long as athletes are
caught with this sort of frequency, it’s going to take more than a few small
personal victories to clear the name of world sport.

Peter Fray

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