Trial for Graham could be BALCO blockbuster

Originally Published: April 6, 2007
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

So far, the BALCO steroid scandal hasn't produced any courtroom theatrics, but that possibility exists now. A Sept. 24 trial date has been set for embattled track coach Trevor Graham in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Graham, one-time mentor of Olympic sprint champions Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin, was indicted last November on charges of lying to federal agents when he told them he had never provided his athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

Five other BALCO defendants reached plea agreements before their cases went to trial. If Graham fails to cut a similar deal, the potential exists for a blockbuster trial that could include testimony from many of his former athletes.

"We're headed for trial," said Gail Shifman, Graham's San Francisco-based attorney. "There is really nothing else to say."

Trevor Graham
AP Photo/Ben MargotTrevor Graham, right, and his attorney Gail Shifman exit the Federal building in San Francisco last November after he pleaded not guilty.
Graham didn't respond to telephone messages left for him Friday.

Graham has admitted anonymously sending the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a syringe that contained traces of a previously undetectable steroid, THG, known as "the clear," which was later tied to BALCO. Critics claim Graham turned in the sample because he was unhappy that his sprinters were losing to those with access to THG.

Sources familiar with the BALCO case suggest prosecutors might be attempting to gain Graham's cooperation in making a possible perjury case against Jones, the darling of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Jones, who testified before the BALCO grand jury, has steadfastly denied accusations of cheating and was cleared last year of a potential doping charge. She reportedly tested positive, but a backup sample turned up negative for steroids.

A person close to C.J. Hunter, ex-husband of Jones, confirmed to ESPN.com that Hunter testified before the San Francisco grand jury to having injected Jones with performance-enhancing drugs. BALCO founder Victor Conte also claims to have provided Jones with performance-enhancing drugs in 2000 and 2001.

Graham's most recent protege, Gatlin, the 100-meter world record co-holder, tested positive for an artificial testosterone last April. Montgomery, the former record holder in the 100 meters who fathered a child with Jones, was banned from the sport for doping based on evidence gathered during the BALCO case.

In an unrelated criminal case, Montgomery and Steve Riddick, Jones' coach, are among 14 defendants scheduled to go on trial Monday in New York on charges connected to a multimillion-dollar bank fraud and money laundering scheme. Montgomery is accused of depositing three bogus checks worth a total of $775,000 and, according to prosecutors, picking up $20,000 for his role in the scheme. Riddick is accused of making deposits worth at least $905,000.

"I feel like I haven't done anything, so I feel confident about it,'' Riddick told ESPN.com. "It'll probably run a couple weeks. Then, I'll be glad when it's over so I can get back to track and field business."

Riddick said prosecutors have not asked him about Jones, saying it is more likely that authorities in the BALCO drug case would be trying to work through Graham if they are attempting to implicate her.

"I would suspect at least they'd try to get him to say something about her," Riddick said.

In the indictment against Graham, the government accused him of lying to Internal Revenue Service agents in 2004 when he claimed he'd never arranged for any athletes to receive performance-enhancers from a source reported to be Angel Guillermo Heredia, a former shot-putter from Laredo, Texas, known as "Memo." The New York Times previously reported that Heredia told the grand jury he provided steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs to Graham and his athletes between 1996 and 2000.

Graham has denied that claim. In early August last year, his attorney said the coach had passed a polygraph test related to Heredia's allegations. At that time, Graham told ESPN.com that his only contact with Heredia had been in 1998.

In a lengthy interview in August with ESPN.com, Graham portrayed himself as a victim rather than a suspect, and suggested his woes had to do with revenge linked to his role with THG. Until he turned over the syringe, the designer steroid had been undetectable.

"I think everyone felt as if I brought a disgrace to the sport by actually turning in the syringe," he said then. "I think they're all pissed off. So I am at the point right now that I'm constantly fighting to prove that my athletes are clean."

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