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Sprinter testifies about drug use at Graham trial

5/22/2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- Olympic gold medalist Antonio Pettigrew
admitted publicly for the first time Thursday that he used
performance-enhancing substances during a long, successful
sprinting career in which he passed all drug tests.

The admission came during the last day of testimony for the
government in the trial of his former coach, Trevor Graham, who is
accused of lying to federal authorities investigating doping in
sports. Graham has pleaded not guilty.

It was also revealed Thursday that Olympic sprint champion
Justin Gatlin worked undercover for authorities investigating
doping in sports, according to the testimony of IRS agent Erwin
Rogers.

Rogers testified that Gatlin, who once shared the world record
in the 100 meters, secretly recorded several telephone calls with
Graham. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston barred Rogers from
disclosing any more details of the calls.

Gatlin, who has served half of a four-year ban for doping,
tested positive for excessive testosterone at the Kansas Relays in
2006, his second doping violation. He has maintained he never
knowingly took a performance-enhancing drug.

Gatlin has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to cut his
suspension nearly in half so he can compete at the Beijing
Olympics. Gatlin, like Pettigrew, was once a member of Graham's
Sprint Capitol USA team in Raleigh, N.C., which also included
sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery - both of whom are now
imprisoned.

Pettigrew testified that Graham encouraged him in 1997 to inject
human growth hormone and the oxygen-boosting drug EPO, both banned
in track. Soon after, Pettigrew said, he began buying the drugs
from Angel "Memo" Heredia, an admitted steroids dealer from
Laredo, Texas.

Once he began taking the banned substances, Pettigrew said he
was able to run 400 meters in the 43-second range for the first
time.

"I was running incredible times as I was preparing for track
meets," Pettigrew said during 30 minutes of testimony. "I was
able to recover faster."

Pettigrew initially lied to federal investigators and denied
doping when they first talked to him in February 2005. But he
finally confessed behind doors to cheating when confronted with
documents in October 2006 strongly suggesting drug buys from
Heredia.

Thursday was his first public admission.

Pettigrew won a gold medal as part of the 1,600-meter relay team
at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He retired from track in 2002 and is
now an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina.

It is unclear what sanctions, if any, Pettigrew will face for
his confession. University officials in Chapel Hill, N.C., said
they are reviewing the matter.

"In our view, if Mr. Pettigrew, or any athlete who competed in
the finals of the men's 4x400 meter relay during the 2000 Games,
did so while using a banned substance, that would undermine the
validity of the result the team achieved," U.S. Olympic Committee
Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr said in an e-mail. "If an
athlete who ran in the finals knowingly and purposely engaged in
cheating, the medals won by the entire team are tarnished and, in
our view, should be returned."

Scherr said any decision to strip Pettigrew of his medal rests
with the International Olympic Committee and the International
Association of Athletics Federation.

The other members of that gold medal relay team were Michael
Johnson and brothers Alvin and Calvin Harrison. Also on the team,
but not running in the final, were Jerome Young and Angelo Taylor.

The IOC tried several years ago to strip Johnson and the other
members of the team of their gold medals after Young tested
positive for drugs and was banned for life. But the USOC appealed
to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which overruled the IOC and
said the entire team should not be disqualified. That allowed
Pettigrew to keep his medal.

The two officials with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency attending
Graham's trial, including managing director Dr. Larry Bowers,
referred calls to the agency's chief executive Travis Tygart on
whether Pettigrew will be investigated for cheating. Tygart and
other officials at USADA headquarters in Fort Collins, Colo.,
didn't return telephone calls.

Three other disgraced track stars who also were coached by
Graham followed Pettigrew to the stand to testify about their own
drug use.

Garfield Ellenwood said Graham got steroids for him after the
two discussed the sprinter's desire to break records, which never
occurred. He also testified that Graham introduced him to Heredia,
which is important because Graham is also charged with lying about
his relationship with Heredia.

Graham told investigators that he talked to Heredia on the
telephone only once in 1996. But prosecutors contend Graham and
Heredia worked closely over several years to supply Graham's
athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

Ellenwood said he now is the coach of the Liberian Olympic track
team and will attend the Beijing Games. He is also the head track
coach at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Ellenwood also testified that after he retired in 2002 he
obtained prescriptions from Dr. Ramon Scruggs for a variety of
steroids, EPO and human growth hormone, all of which are legal to
take with a doctor's prescription.

A federal grand jury indicted Scruggs in April on steroid
distribution counts, alleging he dealt drugs to major league
baseball players. Scruggs has pleaded not guilty.

Young and Dennis Mitchell, both of whom won Olympic gold medals,
each testified that Graham introduced them to Heredia, who then
became their drug supplier.

The government called its last witness Thursday and the judge
refused Graham's lawyer's request to toss out the case. Graham's
lawyer, William Keane, said he is undecided about whether he'll
call any witnesses. The jury could began deliberating as soon as
Tuesday.