'This is going to help you out'

Originally Published: August 9, 2006
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

Alvin Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist (1996 and 2000) in the 1,600-meter relay, is among the few athletes busted for steroids who seems willing to accept some responsibility for it. Harrison is putting the finishing touches on a book titled "The Observer" that he says will offer a firsthand look inside the Trevor Graham camp and the BALCO scandal.

"I did admit to doing certain things, but the way [it] happened with me was a little bit different," Harrison told ESPN.com. "I had incurred an injury in 2002, an injury with my hip flexor. I was supposed to go to Victor Conte, and he had supplements, protein shakes and vitamins that we were taking. We signed an agreement that he would furnish us with these supplements and so forth, and we would pretty much promote the name.

Alvin Harrison
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAlvin Harrison, running here in 2002, says it's time we faced reality about performance-enhancers.
"Once I incurred the injury, I was always taking vitamins and protein shakes -- pretty much things you can get at GNC. And then it was, like, 'Hey, I have something for you here that can help you heal and repair a lot faster.' So I kind of got involved that way. It wasn't straight, 'Here is a steroid. Take this and this is going to happen.' It was, 'Hey, Alvin, along with this, this is going to help you out, also.'

"Of course, I knew what I was taking. I took into consideration to continue taking it for a short time, but it was only for about maybe a few months. It wasn't a year; because when you're doing anything like that, it can destroy your body, in particular your liver. But this stuff wasn't as strong as your Dianabol or anything like that, which is extremely toxic. Anyway, I started [getting] too big, so it really didn't help me in my accomplishments. It's not like I won medals or anything with it, because it definitely didn't help with that. I got more powerful, but I got bigger and so I wasn't able to carry the weight around. I was too big."

Until his book is published -- nothing is finalized with a publisher yet -- Harrison says he will refuse to say what, if any, knowledge Graham had about his doping. Harrison says he trained with Graham's group in 2004.

Although he never failed a drug test, Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 based on evidence found in BALCO documents. During the BALCO investigation, he admitted using erythropoietin (EPO), among other performance enhancers. His twin brother, Calvin, was also suspended in 2004 -- for two years after a positive test for Modafinil, resulting in the U.S. 1,600-meter relay team being stripped of its gold medal at the 2003 World Championships.

"I apologize for my actions in the whole thing, rather than blame everyone else," Alvin Harrison says. "I don't want to sound like a snitch on everyone else, but this is the truth and how things happen in organizations. Sometimes, organizations like this, to keep sport alive or a franchise team [successful], turn their back and let this guy do what he has to do. It's not just all natural.

"The Olympics, what is [the motto] -- stronger, higher, faster? The human body can only go so fast, period. A swimmer can only swim so long. Even a cyclist can only cycle for so long a period of time before the people get exhausted. I'm not condoning this. I'm not saying, 'Go out, use steroids.' I'm not advocating this at all. I'm just saying there is a certain reality that we have to face up to, and this reality is truth."

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

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