Noah Lyles on the Doping Problem in Track: “Everybody But One Person [in the Top 5 All-Time 100m List] Has Been Banned. Kind of Sucks.”

How bad is the doping problem in track & field?

Fans, pundits, and message posters debate it ad nauseam. One thing is certain, doping in track & field cuts to the very essence of the sport, and that is reflected in the penalties for drug cheats. Get caught using a major performance-enhancing drug in track & field, and you get a four-year suspension.

Get caught using a major drug in the NFL? You get a four-game suspension (1/4th of the year).

Earlier this month, travelled to Noah Lyles’ adidas Pure Athletics training base in Clermont, Fla., to watch a day of training and chat with Lyles, his coach Lance Brauman, and a few other Global Athletics athletes. We released our interviews with Lyles and Brauman yesterday as a Track Talk podcast, which you can listen to here.

Noah Lyles (l) and Kendal Williams at his training track in Clermont

“Medals last forever, as long as you don’t get banned”

Lyles brought up the topic of doping after being asked if he would rather break the world record or win an Olympic gold medal. He and Brauman were in total agreement: they’d rather win the Olympic gold medal.

Article continues below player.

“Medals last forever,” Lyles said. “As long as you don’t get banned.”

When asked about the doping problem in the sport and whether it had gotten better since the time his dad, Kevin, competed in the late 1990s, Lyles was a realist.

“I don’t know if it’s truly gotten worse or better. Yes, I hear about bannings all the time, but the thing about drugs is, [the drug users are] always gonna be ahead of the testing. So you first have to catch somebody who was using something new to be able to create a new test for it. So I don’t know how bad it really is. To be honest, I’m always going to assume that everybody’s clean. Until I see something that just looks a little too fishy,” he said.

The 100m has a historical doping problem

Do sprinters sit around and talk about who they think is doping, like message boarders?

“It happens more when we talk about the history of the sport. Especially when you talk about, the top five 100[m] times. Everybody but one person has been banned on that list. Kind of sucks,” Lyles said.

Lyles’ statement was dead on accurate as reflected by the chart below.

Best 100m Time Athlete Drug history
9.58 Usain Bolt
No drug suspensions
9.69 Tyson Gay
1-year ban in 2013 for exogenous anabolic steroid and co-operating with authorities; results annulled from 7/15/12 – 7/4/13
9.69 Yohan Blake
3-month ban in 2009 for 4-methyl-2-hexanamine (stimulant)
9.72 Asafa Powell
6-month ban in 2013 for oxilofrine (stimulant) from contaminated supplement
9.74 Justin Gatlin
1-year ban in 2001 for amphetamines (ban had been 2 years but was reduced after Gatlin successfully argued it stemmed from Adderall medication); 4-year ban in 2006 after exogenous testosterone in system and co-operating with authorities
9.76 Christian Coleman
18-month ban in 2020 for whereabouts failures
9.76 Trayvon Bromell
No drug suspensions
9.76 Fred Kerley
No drug suspensions

Being a historian of the sport, Lyles even knew that Blake and Powell’s suspensions were not major. Lyles said, “Some of them weren’t even banned for what you would say true doping, but it’s kind of just unfortunate.”

When Lyles was asked about some who may be skeptical of any of the top times being clean he said, “I got here, and I’m not doping. Whether you believe that or not is up to you, but now, apparently I’m running so fast people are saying that I sold myself to the devil, which is crazy. But yeah, unfortunately that is a thought in the sport. It’s not how I like to think most of the time. I usually take it for face value until proven otherwise,” he said.

Noah Lyles after breaking Michael Johnson’s AR to win 200m gold in Eugene (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for World Athletics)

As for Lyles’ thoughts on the GOAT of sprinting, Usain Bolt, who has run .18 faster than the next men on the all-time 100m list who have not served anti-doping suspensions (Trayvon Bromell and Fred Kerley at 9.76), Lyles said, “I take it for face value [that Bolt is clean]. You can’t tell me that they were not at his door every day and that they weren’t testing him every championship because I’m getting tested every week, every championship. So I know this world record holder who’s put down multiple fast times, they have been testing constantly, and you can’t tell me that they still don’t go back to his samples that he’s probably kept for science, and they’re still testing that. So, I’m gonna keep believing it.”

Brauman’s thoughts on doping

Brauman, like Lyles, is a realist on the doping problem in the sport.

“People are going to do what people do. All I can control is my thought process on it, which I don’t believe in it, never have. I think that the most talented individual, God-given ability with the right training and the right work ethic and all that type of stuff should be the guy that wins the race. I don’t believe in shortcuts. I don’t believe in any of that. So, that’s my philosophy. I try to ingrain that in the people that I train,” Brauman said.

Brauman has a direct connection to the doping list above as he was Tyson Gay‘s coach when Gay tested positive in 2013, although Brauman was not implicated with the positive test. Another coach, Jon Drummond, was implicated and given an eight-year-ban for his role in Gay’s case.

When asked about what happened with Gay by, Brauman said, “That’s Tyson’s story. I don’t talk about other people’s stories. All I know is that it was a very surprising situation, but besides that, that’s his story.”

What about the 4×400?

Lyles surprised a lot of people this indoor season. First he lowered his 60m pb from 6.51 to 6.43 and took silver at the World Indoor Championships. Then he capped off World Indoors by running a leg on the silver-medal-winning 4×400 relay team, splitting 45.68 and making it known that he wants to win four golds in Paris (100, 200, 4×100 and 4×400).

Embed from Getty Images

Lyles said one of the reasons he wanted to run the relay at World Indoors was to show that he is serious about wanting to run a leg at the Olympics.

“That was the goal, to get it out of the idea of marketing and into reality,” he said, noting “I have a great 300 meter time and I’ve put up splits in high school.”

Lyles does not plan on opening up in the 100 or 200 until May, so that leaves open the possibility of running a 400 early in the season to make a stronger case for being on the 4×400 team in Paris.

“A 400 at like Tom Jones or Florida Relays has been in the talks. It definitely has. But we don’t know yet. Because maybe this is enough,” he said of his 45.68 split in Glasgow.

How did Lyles get on the team at World Indoors despite not running an open 400 since 2016? (He did run one 4×400 at the Florida Relays last year). In Glasgow, Lyles made it seem as if the process was fairly straightforward: he let USATF men’s relay coach Mike Marsh know that he was available at USAs, and confirmed after the 60m final at Worlds that he was still ready to go.

“After the 60, we went back to the hotel and we let Mike know that if you need me, I’m open, I’ve been training for it,” Lyles said in Glasgow.

A few days later in Orlando, however, Lyles admitted it was not quite as simple as that.

“I got myself onto the 4×4,” Lyles told “That took a lot of planning and a lot of politics.”

When pressed on the politics part of his statement Lyles said, “You know, I have to ask. But asking is politics. Knowing to ask the right person, that’s politics. Knowing to say, I’m gonna show up every day that you guys are warming up is politics, saying that even if you don’t choose me, I’m gonna warm up with you, and I’ll be here just in case everybody else gets hurt at one moment. If there’s a freak accident, I’ll be here. I’ll be ready for you. That’s politics.”

Lyles said his friend and high school rival Grant Holloway didn’t believe him when he said he was actually running the 4×400. Lyles won 60m silver on day 1 at World Indoors, and Holloway won 60m hurdles gold on day 2. Holloway told Lyles they should go out on the town that night. Lyles said Holloway didn’t believe him when he said he’d be running the 4×400 the next day.

“[He] didn’t believe me until you saw me put on the uniform,” Lyles said.

As for Brauman? His focus is on getting Lyles ready for the 100 and 200. Everything after that is out of his control. “The only thing we’re worried about right this very minute are trying to make the team in the 100 and 200 meters. Besides that, it’s irrelevant,” Brauman said.

Listen to the Brauman and Lyles talks as a podcast here or in the player below.

Recap of part I of our talk with Lyles and Brauman: Noah Lyles Eyes Usain Bolt’s 19.19 World Record, But Focus Is On Golds

Want to talk sprinting? Check out or new sprinting forum Noah said he’s like there to be a place where all the sprinting talk was in one place so we created it.

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards