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Report Links Sprinter Tyson Gay's Doping To Anti-Aging Cream

Shortly after winning this race, Tyson Gay acknowledged failing a drug test. He is believed to have used a cream provided by an anti-aging specialist whose clients include several NFL players, reports ProPublica.
Fabrice Coffrini
AFP/Getty Images
Shortly after winning this race, Tyson Gay acknowledged failing a drug test. He is believed to have used a cream provided by an anti-aging specialist whose clients include several NFL players, reports ProPublica.

Tyson Gay, the U.S. sprinter whose comeback was derailed by failed drug tests in 2013, is believed to have used a cream containing banned substances he obtained from an Atlanta chiropractor and anti-aging specialist, according to a report by ProPublica and Sports Illustrated.

Citing people with knowledge of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's inquiry into Gay's case, reporter David Epstein writes that the sprinter, who had recorded the year's fastest time in the 100-meter sprint before the doping charges came to light, is believed to have consulted an Atlanta doctor who treats other runners and NFL players.

That doctor is Clayton Gibson III, Epstein writes, whose "client list has included football players such as Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, New York Jets safety Ed Reed, Cleveland Browns running back Willis McGahee, and the late boxing champion Vernon Forrest."

Epstein says other athletes and coaches told him that Gay believed Gibson's assurances that the supplement cream was "all natural" and had been used by NFL players who passed drug tests.

But Gay failed the test – and Epstein says he should have known better:

"The label on the cream Gay is believed to have used starkly says 'Testosterone/DHEA Crème,' and lists testosterone and DHEA among its ingredients. DHEA is a hormone converted in the body to testosterone, and both DHEA and testosterone are banned for Olympic athletes. Two other listed ingredients, IGF-1 and somatropin — another name for human growth hormone — are also forbidden."

It was Gibson, Epstein's sources tell him, that Gay was likely referring to when he spoke to the AP after his failed test last year:

"I don't have a sabotage story," Gay said at the time. "I don't have any lies. I don't have anything to say to make this seem like it was a mistake or it was on USADA's hands, someone playing games. I don't have any of those stories. I basically put my trust in someone and I was let down."

Director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency David Howman tells Epstein that it's "staggering" for a modern athlete not to realize they were using banned substances.

As the AP reported last year, Gay's flurry of failed tests led some to believe his claims of being misled:

"One person familiar with the case told AP the multiple positives over a short period of time are a sign of an athlete who wasn't trying to hide anything, but simply didn't know he was taking a banned drug."

Not every athlete was taken in. Epstein writes of current Olympian Lauryn Williams, the former track star who's now part of America's top women's bobsled team in Sochi.

Back in December, Williams caused a stir with a blog post she wrote, in which she recounted being urged to consult a man a fellow elite athlete had called the "sports doctor of all sports doctors."

"Williams did not identify him, but people familiar with the matter confirmed that Williams met with Gibson and the blog post was about the meeting," Epstein writes.

In her blog post, Williams says she went as far as giving the doctor blood and saliva samples. But she got worried after the doctor couldn't tell her what was in his supplements — despite his claim that he made them himself. That led her to have a friend who's a physician listen to her follow-up phone call.

Before that call, Williams says her friend told her, "I guarantee this guy tells you your hormone levels are all messed up. That is how anti-aging doctors make their money."

During the call, the doctor told Williams that she should "maximize" her testosterone levels.

"I am a girl, I don't need high testosterone," she said.

Gibson was mentioned in an earlier report by David Epstein as a potential source of the cream that got Gay in trouble. His new article lays out the connections that he says allowed Gibson to shift from working with players who had ties to Atlanta's Georgia Tech to courting clients in the NFL — and eventually, to working inside the elite levels of track, as well.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.