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USOC bans track coach Graham from training sites

8/7/2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The U.S. Olympic Committee banned
Justin Gatlin's track coach from its training facilities Thursday,
making him the first target in a newly amplified effort to quash
doping in sports.

Trevor Graham, who trains the 100 meter co-world record holder
accused of drug cheating, was barred indefinitely from all Olympic
training centers and sites in the U.S., committee chairman Peter
Ueberroth said.

Graham became the first coach to receive such a penalty, "based
on the unusual number of athletes he has coached who have been
convicted of doping offenses," Ueberroth said in a conference
call.

At least six athletes under Graham have received drug
suspensions, and Gatlin recently disclosed a positive test in April
for testosterone or other steroids. He faces a lifetime ban for
what would be a second drug violation.

The ban is mostly symbolic because Graham's athletes don't train
at the USOC's three training centers and 12 training sites across
the country. Still, it sets a new tone and could signal bigger
things to come.

Graham, who answered the door Thursday at his house in Raleigh,
N.C., refused to comment.

But he did speak with WRAL-TV, saying the ban was unfair.

"They're just trying to get rid of me," Graham said. "There
are a number of people just out to get me. I'm not trusting no one
right now, at this point."

Ueberroth also announced the USOC will be issuing next week a
"call to action, in capital letters," asking for greater support
and research on doping issues from the federal government and U.S.
sports entities.

"This is a national issue," Ueberroth said. "Nothing less
than this will be needed, a collaborative effort. If we stand
still, we run the risk of losing an entire generation of sports
participants and sports fans."

Ueberroth and USOC CEO Jim Scherr acknowledged a shift in focus
for the federation. In the wake of scandal and reorganization, the
USOC spent recent years reallocating resources to improve the
performance of U.S. athletes.

Now, they say, the emphasis can't be solely on winning.

"If we don't participate with honor and dignity, then what we
do means nothing," Scherr said. "If there's cheating, then it's
cheating other athletes, the American public and cheating the world
of the legitimacy of sports."

The cornerstone of the USOC's drug strategy was set in 2000,
when the federation created the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Since
then, USADA has become widely recognized as one of the world's best
doping agencies.

Although the association can't comment specifically on Graham,
CEO Terry Madden applauded the USOC announcements and said USADA's
efforts continue on many fronts, including those looking into
criminal activity.

"USADA continues to cooperate with the federal government in
its ongoing investigation into the BALCO doping scandal," Madden
said.

In June 2003, Graham helped launch the federal investigation of
the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative by anonymously mailing a
syringe containing a previously undetectable steroid to USADA. He
acknowledged mailing the syringe at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and
has noted the action as a way of defending himself against
allegations that he's involved in doping.

"If they had any kind of case against me, I wouldn't be here
right now," Graham told WRAL-TV. "I've never been in front of the
grand jury. I've never testified in front of the grand jury. I'm
not under any kind of investigation. So, what's going on?"

Gatlin is not the only elite athlete trying to clear his name;
findings against the sprinter came days after a testosterone
imbalance showed up in a urine sample of Tour de France champion
Floyd Landis. The American cyclist also denies knowingly taking
testosterone.

Graham said Gatlin was the victim of a vengeful massage
therapist who rubbed testosterone cream on him without his
knowledge. But the therapist, Christopher Whetstine -- who has
worked with Olympian Marion Jones and other elite athletes -- says
the coach's allegations are untrue.

Gatlin's attorney has distanced the runner from Graham's
comments.

In 2004, the head of USA Track and Field, Craig Masback, met
with Gatlin and suggested the sprinter find another coach, a person
with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. Masback
made the suggestion because of Graham's involvement in the BALCO
case and Gatlin's status as a rising star in the sport, said the
source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity
of the issue.

Though Graham has always denied direct knowledge or involvement
with performance-enhancing drugs, he has been squarely in the aim
of the USOC, which has been looking for ways to penalize coaches,
agents and trainers who influence athletes with positive tests.

The USOC made no announcement Thursday about barring Graham from
future competitions, which wouldn't be as easy as restricting
access to its own training centers. Officials at track's
international governing body, however, said earlier this week that
they could ban Graham for two years with the right evidence.

"There is a process spelled out. There are due rights for
people to participate," Scherr said. "We'll follow those
processes."

Before Thursday's announcement, officials with the final Golden
League meet in Berlin barred any athletes linked to Graham from the
Sept. 3 event. Five-time Olympic medalist Marion Jones, Olympic
200-meter champion Shawn Crawford and sprinter Dwight Thomas are
among the athletes excluded.