Archive for Friday, August 4, 2006

Gatlin’s massage therapist denies allegations, has checkered history

August 4, 2006

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— A massage therapist drawn into the Justin Gatlin doping scandal denied an accusation that he rubbed testosterone cream on the sprinter's body to trip a positive drug test.

Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, said the world-record holder tested positive after a vengeful massage therapist used testosterone cream on him without his knowledge. In an Italian newspaper, Graham identified the massage therapist as Christopher Whetstine, who worked with Olympian Marion Jones and other elite athletes.

Gatlin, the co-world-record holder in the 100 meters, faces a lifetime ban after failing a drug test in April following the Kansas Relays.

"Trevor Graham is not speaking on behalf of Justin Gatlin, and the statement about me is not true," Whetstine said Wednesday in a statement read over the phone by his attorney, Elizabeth Baker. "I have fully cooperated with the investigation into this matter."

Gatlin has said he didn't know how steroids got into his system, and his attorney has distanced the runner from the comment by Graham, who has been involved with at least a half-dozen athletes who have received drug suspensions.

On Thursday, the U.S. Olympic Committee banned Graham from its training centers and training sites.

Graham, who answered the door Thursday at his house in Raleigh, N.C., refused to comment on the ban and Whetstine.

Baker said Whetstine, who is under contract with Nike, denies using a banned substance on Gatlin or "any other athlete."

Whetstine is unavailable to speak to the media because he's recovering from a June assault in Indianapolis during the national track and field championships, Baker said Thursday.

Whetstine, 42, was hospitalized with a concussion, broken nose, sprained ankle, dislocated thumb and cuts and bruises following a June 22 assault outside the Westin hotel in Indianapolis, according to an Indianapolis Police Department report.

Whetstine told officers he might have briefly blacked out during the early morning attack.

The police report states that Whetstine and the suspect, Llewellyn Starks, 40, had been talking for a few minutes when Starks "became irate" and attacked Whetstine.

Whetstine told officers he wanted charges filed against Starks, a former highly ranked long jumper.

Detective Skye Griffin, the investigating officer, told the Associated Press on Thursday she had not yet interviewed Starks, but plans on doing so once her investigation nears its end.

She said the charges would "most likely" be filed against Starks.

"I do anticipate some charges being filed, but at this time I don't know what charges or when that will take place," Griffin said.

Over the years, Whetstine's clients have included entertainer Sean "Diddy" Combs, golfer Ben Crane and three of Graham's athletes - Jones, Gatlin and sprinter Shawn Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 200 meters.

Whetstine also has provided his services for Nike-sponsored athletes at various events, said Dean Stoyer, a Nike spokesman, who wouldn't reveal the length of Whetstine's contract or other details.

Prefontaine Classic meet promoter Tom Jordan said he doubts the allegations against Whetstine.

"He really wants what's best for the athletes," Jordan said of Whetstine, who served for seven years as massage therapist for the annual elite meet at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field. "He is, in my view, considered one of the best in the world."

Don Butzner, an Oregon-based massage therapist who also works with athletes, said he was shocked by the allegations.

"Chris knows how to work with these athletes to win without that (performance-enhancing substances)," he said.

But in 1995, Whetstine was sentenced to 36 months' probation and fined following a conviction for manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, according to Tanna Tracewell, records supervisor for Lane County District Court.

Baker confirmed the conviction and said the substance was marijuana.

In 2002, Whetstine was disciplined by the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists for using chiropractic techniques he wasn't licensed for. He was put on supervised probation for six months.

Still, Patty Glenn, the board's executive director, said of Whetstine on Wednesday: "He's a good guy, as far as I'm aware. He certainly has built a real solid practice as a message therapist."

If the allegations against Gatlin hold up, the Olympic and world champion would face a life ban and the loss of the world 100-meter record. Gatlin equaled Jamaican Asafa Powell's mark of 9.77 seconds in May, a month after the positive test.

He would keep his Athens gold medal in the 100 and world 100 and 200 titles from 2005.

Gatlin was suspended in 2001 after testing positive for an amphetamine found in medication he was taking for attention deficit disorder. Track's world governing body gave him early reinstatement, but said the suspension remained on his record and he would face a life ban for any second violation.

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