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Nike suspends Gatlin`s contract

26 August 2006

Nike suspends Gatlin`s contract Nike suspends Gatlin`s contract
Already banned from U.S. Olympic Committee training sites, Justin Gatlin`s coach isn`t welcome at Nike headquarters, either.

The shoe company has terminated its contract with Trevor Graham and suspended its contract with Gatlin until further notice, Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said.

"He will not receive payment while the contract is suspended, and there is no specific date or speculation as to when we would re-up that," said Stoyer, who would not disclose details of the contracts.

Gatlin, the co-world record holder in the 100 meters, tested positive for testosterone and other steroids at the Kansas Relays on April 22. On Tuesday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a ban for a maximum of eight years, but Gatlin can reduce the ban substantially by cooperating with investigators.

"As I have said from the very beginning of this situation, I have no idea how any banned substance got into my body," Gatlin said Friday in a statement released through a public relations firm. "I have never knowingly used any banned substance, nor have I allowed anyone to administer one to me. Cheating, in any form, is completely contrary to who I am as an athlete and a person."

"I will continue to cooperate with USADA and with their efforts to get to the bottom of this situation. Contrary to what has been reported I have not agreed to any penalties whatsoever, and I intend to file for arbitration shortly. I expect when that process is concluded that this entire matter will be resolved favorably."

Graham, former coach of Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, has had several athletes test positive for banned substances but always has denied any direct involvement in performance-enhancing drugs.

Joseph Zeszotarski, Graham's attorney, said Nike's move was made without just cause.

"The contract cannot be terminated based upon innuendo and suspicion," Zeszotarski said in an e-mail. "We have contacted Nike regarding this matter, and we are awaiting their response. We hope to avoid having to take legal action but will do so if necessary."

Graham operates Raleigh-based Sprint Capitol USA, a team of about 10 athletes that includes Gatlin. He helped launch the federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative three years ago by anonymously mailing a syringe containing "the clear," a previously undetectable steroid to USADA. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Graham acknowledged mailing the drug.

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