Justin Gatlin could escape a lifetime ban if he testifies against his coach.
By testifying against Trevor Graham, Gatlin would exercise the "substantial assistance" provision in the World Anti-Doping Agency's code, which reduces the ban by proving "he or she bears no significant fault or negligence" in the violation.
The 24-year-old American sprinter faces the ban after a second positive doping test, but that could be reduced to eight years if Gatlin provides information against his coach.
"Since we don't have any criminal investigative powers -- like wiretaps, warrants for searching premises, etcetera -- it takes information coming to us from people aiming for a reduction in their own doping sentences," said general counsel Travis Tygart, who refused to comment on Gatlin or any other specific cases before USADA.
"It's one way we can continue to actively pursue those involved in doping practices," he said.
Gatlin, the Olympic and world champion and co-world record holder in the 100 meters, tested positive for testosterone or other steroids after a relay race in Kansas in April. He denies knowingly using banned substances.
"If an athlete can provide information on individuals involved in doping conspiracies and can help us catch distributors or users of these drugs we would always welcome that evidence," Tygart said.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said on Thursday that it would investigate the activities of Graham in conjunction with USADA.
Graham, who once trained five-time Olympic medalist Marion Jones, has been involved with at least a half-dozen athletes who have received drug suspensions.
Graham has always denied direct knowledge or involvement with drug use and claimed that Gatlin was the victim of a massage therapist who rubbed testosterone cream on the sprinter's legs without his knowledge after the race.
Sprinter Kelli White received a two-year suspension after testing positive for modafinil at the 2003 world championships in Paris. She cooperated with USADA and helped indict four men on federal charges in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) case -- including founder Victor Conte and her former coach Remi Korchemny.
Korchemny also worked with British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who was banned for two years in the BALCO case after testing positive for the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone in an out-of-competition test in Germany in August 2004.
Graham helped launch the federal investigation of BALCO three years ago by anonymously mailing a syringe containing a previously undetectable steroid to USADA.