Dennis Mitchell Take III

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August 9, 2006

USATF has confirmed that Dennis Mitchell, the 100m sprinter who received a 2 year doping ban by the IAAF, has stepped down as coach of the USA-Great Britain Norwich, and been replaced by Dennis Mitchell, the University of Akron coach.

Last week we linked to the coaching staff of the USA-Great Britain Norwich Union International pointing out that Dennis Mitchell was coach of the USATF Men’s team.

We believed the coach to be Dennis Mitchell, the former 100m sprinter, who received a doping ban in 1998 by the IAAF after testing positive for a high T/E ratio (His ban was overturned by USATF, which accepted his sex and beers defense, but was upheld by the IAAF and he could not compete abroad for 2 years). We thought it was a bit hypocritical for the USOC to ban Trevor Graham from using its facilities while USATF was allowing other convicted drug offenders to coach its teams.

However, we received correspondence yesterday from a journalist in the UK indicating that the coach of the US team was Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach. However, we still believed our original source to be correct (that the banned Mitchell was originally scheduled to be the coach) and after a series of phone calls including talking to  Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach, we talked to Jill Geer, Director of Communications of USATF.

According to Geer, there was some confusion at the USATF Convention as to which Dennis Mitchell delegates were voting for. She said that the original coach selected was Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach, but somehow along the way, he was mistakenly replaced by Dennis Mitchell, the sprinter.

Last week, with the press attention put on this matter after the link on and subsequent article in the Times of London, USATF looked into the matter and determined there was a lot of confusion as to who the actual coach was and who the delegates had intended to vote for.  With the ensuing confusion Dennis Mitchell the athlete agreed to step down as coach, being replaced by Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach.

Geer said, “…given the confusion it was determined that it’s better to correct the mistake, It was Dennis (Mitchell) the athlete who ultimately said to correct the mistake. In the wake of the Justin (Gatlin) announcement it would be a difficult situation for the team (to have Dennis Mitchell the athlete as its coach) and for Dennis to be over there.”

So there you have it, Dennis Mitchell, the coach, is really now the coach.

Instead of focusing on whether there was or wasn’t a coverup, we’ll be positive and give USATF the benefit of the doubt and state that we are pleased that a convicted drug cheat isn’t leading a US team.  We also hope that in the future those given major drug bans are never allowed to coach a US team or work for USATF without at least coming clean about their past drug use.  We are pleased to hear from USATF that its Board of Directors is currently trying to draft a concrete proposal as to how to deal with past drug cheats or coaches of current drug cheats.

Coming to grips with past drug use in the sport is difficult and isn’t pleasant for anyone whether it be fans, athletes, media or bureaucrats, particularly given the fact that a signficant number of the players in track and field these days were former stars of the 70s,  80s and 90s when drug testing was by and large a joke and thus many of them may have been on drugs themselves (whether caught or not) .

However condoning illegal druge use can not be allowed.  

The mainsteam media seems to still have the wool over its eyes and think that the drug scandals in sports have reached a crescendo.  We are not that naive.  However, the big positive of all the recent drug scandals is that the outrage it has created with the public and US Congress gives us a rare opportunity to take significant action and actually try to clean all professional sports of illegal drug use instead of relying on false PR stunts.

In the coming months, plans on going back to its strong ant-drug roots and really push the professional sports leagues hard to do what is needed to truly make sports as drug free as possible.  We hope that USATF and all of the major professional sport leagues join us in the fight.


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