Graham, once eager to take on feds, will get his chance

Updated: November 6, 2006, 7:35 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

When Trevor Graham sat down for his last in-depth interview in August, the coach of Olympic champions and world record-holders was itching to get it on. He was antsy. He'd grown weary of the rumors and the behind-his-back trash talking.

He spoke of his eagerness to take on the feds. If the government wanted to make a case against him -- and that day, he doubted it did -- Graham boldly predicted he'd win in a court of law.

"You hear stories: 'Trevor is going across the [Mexican] border for [steroids]. Trevor is doing this and that,' " Graham told ESPN.com. "Now, the feds already did their homework and found out none of Trevor's athletes have ever been there. Not Trevor Graham. But as long as they keep saying this and trying to push everything this way, the media and everyone else will try to go after Trevor Graham. Why? 'Cause Trevor Graham's athletes continue to run fast and they continue to do well.

"I'm not concerned by any of this. They can look at me. I don't care. If I have something to hide, then that is when I would care. But I don't have anything to hide."

Neither Graham nor his attorney, Joseph Zeszotarski, returned telephone calls Wednesday after the news broke that Graham was expected to be indicted in San Francisco as early as Thursday for obstructing the same federal doping probe he helped spark three years ago.

This latest news follows a report by ESPN.com last Wednesday that Graham's right-hand man at Sprint Capitol, Randall Evans, and former Sprint Capitol runner Antonio Pettigrew had been called before the second BALCO grand jury -- the same body weighing whether to bring charges against San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. The attorney for Evans, Johnny Gaskins, acknowledged his client was questioned about Graham.

Graham's attorney later suggested Evans offered up nothing potentially damaging to his client. On the eve of his friend's indictment, Evans shed little light on the situation, saying only, "Right now, I just don't want to talk about anything."

The Jamaican-born coach has been hugely successful, having worked with Olympic champions and world record-holders such as Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin. At the same time, his training practices continue to come under scrutiny as at least six athletes from his camp have received suspensions for drug use.

The oddity here is that it was Graham who triggered the BALCO steroids scandal when he anonymously mailed a syringe containing a trace of an undetectable designer drug to the United States Anti-Doping Agency in June 2003. The BALCO investigation led to four criminal convictions, congressional hearings and simmering drug issues in baseball -- not to mention a firestorm surrounding Bonds and his chase of the all-time home run record -- as well as sanctions against 14 track and field athletes.

Now, having patiently waited for the grand jury to return an indictment, USADA is expected to initiate disciplinary action against the former whistle-blower. Track coaches aren't licensed in the United States, so it remains to be seen how tough a stance the agency can take. It is also unclear whether U.S. athletes could be stopped from training with him, but Graham would likely be denied access to college tracks and meets staged in this country.

Graham is the first coach targeted by U.S. sports authorities, and he figures to come under closer scrutiny. He also faces possible sanctions from the U.S. Olympic Committee as well as track and field's world governing body.

"You would hope so," a U.S. official said when asked if a federal indictment would put Graham out of business.

What is presumed to be a key element in the indictment against Graham is his knowledge and possible involvement with Angel Guillermo Heredia, a former athlete and nutritionist who reportedly testified to providing steroids, human growth hormone and the performance-enhancing drug EPO to Graham and many of his athletes. The New York Times reported that Heredia, who has homes in Laredo, Texas, and in Mexico, testified to having provided the drugs from about 1996 through 2000.

Graham has never testified before the grand jury.

However, The Times reported Graham gave a statement to federal investigators in 2004, denying he set up any of his athletes with illegal performance-enhancing drugs. According to The Times, Graham contradicted Heredia's account, saying he had never met him in person and had not spoken to him since 1997.

Graham told ESPN.com he last dealt with Heredia in 1998, when he unsuccessfully worked to have Heredia admitted to Saint Augustine's College, his alma mater. "That was the end of that," Graham said.

Evans, Graham's top assistant, was a teammate and friend of Heredia at San Jacinto College in Texas.

Asked if anyone in his group had any dealings with Heredia, Graham said, "No, none of us."

As for reports that Sprint Capitol runners had trained in Laredo, Graham said, "[Tim] Montgomery did. He did [in] a lot of places."

Graham is tired of the questions. He wonders aloud how he morphed from hero -- the good guy who blew the BALCO whistle -- to someone who must defend himself against a flurry of allegations. He brings up revenge. He says haters have been out to get him ever since he turned in the syringe.

He talks about the drug testers who religiously hunt down his team, which has dwindled in numbers. He mentions the watchful eye that follows his every move and the harsh words that cause his family pain.

"I mean, just the way that people look at us now," Graham said in August. "You can tell that people just isolate themselves, like they don't want nothing to do with us. It's just life after the syringe. Life before the syringe, everyone wanted to get your knowledge. Everyone was enjoying the sunset.

"But then, after turning in the syringe, it was like I got a truckload of dope sitting in my house. And I'm injecting my athletes. I'm giving my athletes ... all this stuff. Like I said, before the [2004] Olympic Games they came and they blood-test my athletes. They did all kind of tests on them. They went on to the Olympic Games and did their thing. In the middle of the whole BALCO scandal and bullets flying everywhere, my athletes went to the Olympics and performed for their coach. They were like, 'Don't worry, Coach, we're going to perform.' And they went out there and performed to their best."

It soon will be showtime for the coach. And the fight he was itching for is about to be made.

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.

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