Drug talk casts spotlight on duo in meet

Justin Gatlin acknowledging the crowd's cheers after winning the 100m at the Diamond League meet in Rome on June 4. He and fellow American sprinter Tyson Gay faced criticism when they returned to competition after serving drug bans.
Justin Gatlin acknowledging the crowd's cheers after winning the 100m at the Diamond League meet in Rome on June 4. He and fellow American sprinter Tyson Gay faced criticism when they returned to competition after serving drug bans.PHOTO: REUTERS

EUGENE (United States) - Doping allegations against coach Alberto Salazar and his top American runner, 2012 London Olympic 10,000m runner-up Galen Rupp, loom large as the US Track and Field Championships begin today.

Athletes will be competing for spots on the US squad that will compete at August's World Championships in Beijing, with Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin - two sprint stars who have served doping bans - battling to position themselves to challenge Jamaican defending champion Usain Bolt for the 100m and 200m world titles.

A BBC documentary earlier this month in collaboration with the ProPublica website accused Salazar, also the coach of British 10,000m Olympic champion Mo Farah, of violating anti-doping rules, with claims that Salazar doped Rupp in 2002 with the anabolic steroid testosterone when the runner was only 16.

Both Salazar and Rupp have denied any wrongdoing but they figure to draw attention at this week's meet at Hayward Field, the University of Oregon track where the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team will be decided next year.

"I would think that any of this black cloud, so to speak, will be overshadowed by all of the positives that are going on and will happen this week," Vin Lananna, Rupp's former coach at Oregon, told the Eugene Register-Guard.

Rupp is seeking his seventh consecutive US crown in the 10,000m today and is also set to race the 5,000m on Sunday.

Other Nike Oregon athletes looking for a spot in Beijing include Matthew Centrowitz in the 1,500m; Shannon Rowbury, Treniere Moser and Mary Cain in the women's 1,500m; Rowbury and Jordan Hasay in the 5,000m; and Hasay in the 10,000m.

Nick Symmonds, an 800m runner-up at the 2013 Moscow World Championships and twice an Olympian, said he wants to hear more details from Salazar and Rupp.

"I hope the media attention that comes from USA is enough to finally get a statement from Nike, get a statement from Alberto, get a statement from Galen," Symmonds told the Register-Guard. "How we have gone weeks into this scandal without a single statement addressing these allegations is absolutely absurd."

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion and 2005 world 100m and 200m champion, and Gay, the 2007 100m-200m world champion, have faced criticism themselves after comebacks from drug bans.

Gatlin, 33, ran a 100m personal best of 9.74 seconds in Qatar last month, the fastest run in the world since Jamaican Yohan Blake went 9.69 in 2012, and strengthened his status as the fifth-best all-time performer.

In 2001, Gatlin was banned after testing positive for amphetamines but an appeal brought an early reinstatement by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

But in 2006, he tested positive after a relay run at a US meet and was eventually handed a four-year ban that ended in August 2010.

Gay, 32, missed the 2013 World Championships after testing positive for a banned substance. He was suspended until June last year and stripped of his 4x100m relay silver from the London Olympics.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Drug talk casts spotlight on duo in meet'. Print Edition | Subscribe