News 23rd April 2020

Backdated ban means Robert Wagner is free to work in athletics

Robert Wagner, a former agent to Justin Gatlin, is eligible to work in athletics again, as a two year sanction issued after he arranged to supply prohibited substances to undercover reporters has been backdated to his 7 April 2018 provisional suspension. In 2017, Wagner arranged the supply of testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) to reporters for the Daily Telegraph, who were posing as producers recruiting people to train an actor for a film about athletics. 

The full AIU decision (PDF below) reveals that Wagner was offered US$250,000, after which he suggested that testosterone and HGH would help an actor get into shape for the film. Wagner, an Austrian, told the undercover reporters that he flew to America once a month and would bring the substances with him. He sent an email to the undercover reporters featuring a picture showing a syringe and a vial of a substance, the partially-legible label of which read ‘Peptide FRAG 176-19…’, and ‘For Laboratory Research’ and ‘Not for Human Consumption’.

The damning part of the Daily Telegraph’s 18 December 2017 exposé concerned comments made by Wagner suggesting that doping is widespread in athletics. The above Decision outlines that Wagner told undercover reporters ‘This is what track and field is about […] You think Justin is not doing this? Do you think Dennis [Mitchell, Gatlin’s coach] wasn’t doing this? Everybody does it! It is a daily situation for us.’ 

When asked by undercover reporters if athletes were still using such substances, the Decision outlines that Wagner replied: ‘Right now. Obviously, as soon as the season starts. Justin is going to do it, like every other sprinter in America is going to do it. They have to do it.’

Wagner told the AIU that these were false statements, designed to secure the $250,000 from the undercover reporters by making them think such practices were commonplace. The Decision outlines his argument that the photograph of prohibited substances he sent to reporters was a sample found in a hotel room at an event that he had organised, which he had forwarded to the relevant national federation to follow up. 

‘Mr Wagner confirmed that he had no further information or any evidence to corroborate his claims that Mr Justin Gatlin (and “everybody else”) was doping at certain points in the season or that Mr Dennis Mitchell was involved, aware and engaged in doping Mr Gatlin’, reads the AIU Decision. ‘Mr Wagner also claimed that he had exaggerated his ability to procure prohibited substances and transport them into the US using falsified medical documents and that he had never done so.’

The AIU adds that it followed up Wagner’s explanations, and an investigation was conducted in partnership with USADA. Wagner was sanctioned for four breaches of World Athletics’ Integrity Code: Integrity Standard 6.3(a) Honesty; Integrity Standard 6.3(b) Clean Athletics; Integrity Standard 6.3(o) Reporting; and Integrity Standard 6.3(q) Protect Reputation.  His ban was backdated to his 7 April 2018 provisional suspension, which means that it has been served and he is free to return to work in athletics.

It is understood that Gatlin fired Mitchell as a result of the Daily Telegraph’s exposé. Gatlin denies using performance enhancing drugs. His agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, told the newspaper that Wagner had worked for Gatlin only on two or three occasions. In December 2017, Gatlin told undercover reporters for the Daily Telegraph that Wagner had been his ‘race track’ agent for about five years, with responsibility for arranging deals and travel in return for a percentage of earnings.

Gatlin’s first adverse analytical finding (AAF) in 2001 involved amphetamine, and an arbitration panel found that this was due to Adderall prescribed to treat ADHD. He was initially banned for two years, but reinstated by the IAAF two months later.

In 2006, he tested positive for exogenous testosterone, but claimed that the AAF had been caused by sabotage due to a financial disagreement with his physical therapist, who had rubbed a new product on his legs. A four-year ban was imposed, double the standard two-year ban in place at the time.

Only Gatlin knows if he has ever intentionally doped. He denies doing so. No panel has ever found that he intentionally doped.

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