Graham Charged With Hindering Probe

Friday, November 3rd 2006, 3:43 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Trevor Graham once styled himself a kind of crusader against steroids in sports after mailing a syringe of a designer drug to anti-doping agents, an act he later said was just "a coach doing the right thing.''

Now the elite track coach finds himself ensnared in the very investigation he helped spark by anonymously sending that package three years ago.

Graham, whose star pupils included Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin, was indicted Thursday on three counts of making false statements to federal agents by a grand jury. Federal prosecutors said Graham lied to investigators about his ties to the Bay Area lab at the center of the steroids scandal.

He's scheduled for arraignment Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court, and faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine if convicted.

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.

Graham also coached sprinters Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, and her ex-boyfriend, Montgomery, formerly the world's fastest man. He was suspended from competition for two years, although he never has tested positive for a banned substance.

Three years ago, Graham anonymously mailed a syringe containing "the clear,'' a previously undetectable steroid to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Graham acknowledged mailing the drug, saying: "I was just a coach doing the right thing at the time.'' He did not say why he turned in the syringe or how he got the material.

According to the indictment, Graham lied to federal investigators in 2004 when he told them he didn't provide his athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

It said he obtained those drugs from a person identified only as "Source A'' and that he "provided them to athletes he was coaching and also referred athletes he was coaching to Source A to obtain illegal performance-enhancing drugs directly from Source A.''

Although the indictment did not identify "Source A,'' The New York Times reported in July that former Mexican discus thrower Angel Guillermo Heredia, who worked with Graham, told the grand jury he supplied performance-enhancing drugs to the coach and many of his athletes, including Montgomery, Jones and her ex-husband C.J. Hunter, and sprinter Michelle Collins.

Graham was granted immunity for his cooperation but not from prosecution for making false statements, prosecutors said.

"Today's charges demonstrate this office's ongoing commitment to investigate and prosecute not only those involved in the illegal doping of our nation's athletes, but also those who lie to federal agents involved in a criminal investigation,'' San Francisco U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said.

Graham's Raleigh-based attorney Joseph Zeszotarski said his client was innocent and has cooperated with federal authorities.

"It is particularly troublesome that the government has chosen to take this course, when it was Trevor, who had the integrity, and courage, to turn in the sample that led to the BALCO investigation in the first place,'' he said. "Yet this is how he is rewarded.''

The move touched off the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative investigation. It since has netted five convictions, including that of Patrick Arnold, the Illinois chemist who produced the clear for the now-defunct Burlingame supplement company that served as a front for a steroids ring.

"We know athletes rarely dope on their own,'' said Travis Tygart, general counsel for the USADA. "I can't comment on any active USADA case but to the extent that criminal laws and sport rules can be harnessed together to eradicate the root of the problem by stopping coaches and others who prey on our athletes, it's a great day for all of us who are interested in clean sport.''

In August, the U.S. Olympic Committee banned Graham from its training centers, because many of his athletes have been suspended for doping offenses.

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel declined comment on the indictment.

Jill Geer, spokeswoman for USA Track & Field, said the sport's governing body "has always believed that anyone involved in doping, whether an athlete, coach, support staff or other person, should be held accountable.

"We are not familiar with the investigation or the particular evidence in Mr. Graham's case,'' she said, "so we will wait for the justice system to run its course.''

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

According to Thursday's indictment, authorities are "investigating potential instances of perjury and false statements to government agencies made by various witnesses who were interviewed by federal agents and who testified before the grand jury.''