Track coach Graham maintains innocence in BALCO probe

Thursday, November 16th 2006, 2:50 pm
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Trevor Graham, who has coached Olympic champions Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin, pleaded not guilty Thursday to accusations he hindered a federal steroids investigation targeting baseball star Barry Bonds and other high-profile athletes.

Graham is charged with three counts of making false statements to federal agents in an indictment issued Nov. 1 by the grand jury investigating performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.

He was freed on $25,000 bond after appearing briefly before U.S. Magistrate Edwin Chen. His attorney, Gail Shifman, entered the plea on Graham's behalf.

Graham did not comment, but Shifman told reporters outside court that ``he'll be vindicated'' at trial. If convicted, Graham faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Shifman declined to answer questions about whether Graham supplied athletes with performance-enhancing drugs or told athletes where they were available, as the indictment alleges. Graham was granted immunity for his cooperation but not from prosecution for making false statements.

Shifman said the charges were ``really regrettable,'' because Graham's intention had been to clean up track and field.

Three years ago, he helped spark the steroid investigation by anonymously mailing a vial containing ``the clear,'' a previously undetectable steroid, to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The probe has netted five convictions, including that of Patrick Arnold, the Illinois chemist who produced the clear for the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, also was convicted in the BALCO investigation. The grand jury is examining whether Bonds committed perjury when he told a 2003 grand jury that he never knowingly used steroids. He testified he believed Anderson had supplied him with flaxseed oil and arthritis balm.

San Francisco U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said after the hearing that the government's steroid probe ``is an ongoing investigation.''

``Whether or not there will be more indictments,'' he told KGO-AM, ``only time will tell.''

Graham operates Raleigh, N.C.-based Sprint Capitol USA, a team of about 10 athletes that includes Gatlin, the 100-meter co-world record holder who tested positive for testosterone and other steroids in April. He also coached Jones, a sprinter who won five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, and her ex-boyfriend Tim Montgomery, formerly the world's fastest man who was suspended from competition for two years for doping.

Following Graham's indictment, Olympic 200-meter gold medalist Shawn Crawford and former U.S. 100-meter champion Me'Lisa Barber announced they would no longer train with him.

In August, the U.S. Olympic Committee banned Graham from its training centers, because several of his athletes have been suspended for doping offenses. Last week, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency notified Graham in a letter that he is accused of violating doping rules, sources have told The Associated Press.