Track coach Graham found guilty of lying to investigators
SAN FRANCISCO -- The trial of track coach Trevor Graham netted steroids prosecutors another guilty verdict and a public admission of cheating from a gold-medal winning athlete.
The jury convicted Graham on Thursday of one count of lying to federal investigators about his relationship to an admitted steroids dealer but deadlocked on the other two charges, when at least one juror had serious doubts about the credibility of the prosecution's star witness.
Graham's Tarnished Stars
The details of prominent Trevor Graham-trained track and field athletes who have been suspended for doping and/or tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs:
Marion Jones: Former U.S. track star was sentenced to six months in prison in January for lying to federal investigators about her steroid use and misleading them about her knowledge of a multimillion dollar check-fraud case involving her former boyfriend Tim Montgomery. She was stripped of her five Olympic medals and wiped from the Olympic record books.
Antonio Pettigrew: Pettigrew admitted publicly for the first time Thursday that he used performance-enhancing drugs during a period in which he won Olympic gold in the 4x400 U.S. relay team at Sydney 2000.
Tim Montgomery: Father of Jones' oldest son, Montgomery was stripped of the 100 meters record he set in 2002 after admitting using steroids and HGH from BALCO. Montgomery pleaded guilty in New York in 2007 to taking part in a bank fraud and money-laundering scheme.
C.J. Hunter: Former husband of Marion Jones, Hunter failed four tests for the steroid nandrolone in 2000 and missed the Sydney Olympics. He retired and was suspended for two years in 2001.
Dennis Mitchell: Member of the 400-meter relay team that won gold at the 1992 Olympics, Mitchell tested positive for testosterone in 1998 and was banned for two years. He contended the elevated levels were a result of heavy beer drinking and sex.
Jerome Young: The U.S. sprinter was stripped of his 2000 Sydney Olympics 4x400 relay gold medal after it was revealed he tested positive for nandrolone in 1999. He was banned for life in 2004 after testing positive for EPO.
-- The AP and Reuters
This marked the first significant setback at trial for the federal government in its nearly five-year investigation stemming from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative doping scandal.
Graham, who coached former star sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, is the second person from the BALCO scandal to be convicted at trial. Former elite cyclist Tammy Thomas was found guilty in April of lying to a federal grand jury when she denied taking steroids.
"This verdict is another example of how the cooperation between law enforcement authorities and anti-doping agencies is allowing us to get at this problem in a deeper way," U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said. "This verdict also underscores the importance for athletes to make good decisions in choosing who to work with."
Eight others, including Jones and BALCO founder Victor Conte, have pleaded guilty to charges that stemmed from the September 2003 raid on BALCO headquarters in Burlingame, Calif. The raid came shortly after Graham anonymously sent the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a vial of "the clear," a then undetectable steroid.
In fact, Graham's attorney William Keane portrayed his client as "the original whistleblower in BALCO," who later was made a scapegoat.
Although Graham did not testify at the trial, five of his former athletes, including Olympic gold-medal winner Antonio Pettigrew, did.
It was Pettigrew's first public admission of drug use and has placed the gold medal he won as part of the 4x400-meter relay team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in jeopardy.
"Whenever we receive reliable evidence about doping violations, we will aggressively pursue them," said USADA CEO Travis Tygart.
USOC CEO Jim Scherr has said previously that any decision to strip Pettigrew of his medal rests with the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The other members of that 2000 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.
Although Pettigrew admitted to doping as far back as 1997, the statute of limitations on doping violations extends only eight years. The International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport's governing body, now is considering changing that.
"We have to look: Are we ready to have this rule changed," IAAF president Lamine Diack said in a conference call Thursday. "We are ready to take our responsibility."
Graham was charged with three counts of lying to two IRS agents about his relationship with Angel "Memo" Heredia -- a Laredo, Texas, discus thrower who bought performance-enhancing drugs in Mexico and sold them to many star track athletes.
In an interview in North Carolina in June 2004, Graham denied setting up his athletes with drugs obtained from Heredia, said he never met Heredia in person and that he last contacted Heredia by phone in about 1997.
The jurors convicted Graham on the charge relating to the phone calls. A mistrial was declared on the other two, even though a photo showed Graham and Heredia together at Heredia's house over Christmas in 1996.
"The jury obviously had problems with the government's case on the other two counts, including the allegations that Mr. Graham instigated and facilitated the use by a few of his athletes of performance-enhancing drugs supplied by Angel Heredia," Keane said. "As we maintained all along we did not believe that the government could prove that case. It simply was not true."
Prosecutors, who can retry Graham on the other two charges, had no comment on their next move. Keane said he hoped the government would not retry Graham and that he planned to submit a motion to dismiss the one guilty verdict.
The maximum sentence for Graham's conviction is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A typical sentence for a first-time offender is less than one year. Graham is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 5 before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.
Jury foreman Frank Stapleton, a 59-year-old small business owner from Oakland, was the lone holdout for conviction on the second count and one of two holdouts on the first. He said he questioned whether Graham's statements that he had not met Heredia in person were deliberately misleading and could not decide whether it was material to the investigation.
On the first count, Stapleton said he questioned the credibility of almost all government witnesses, but mostly Heredia.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Finigan acknowledged in closing arguments that Heredia made "a lot of inconsistent statements." But Heredia's testimony was corroborated by testimony from athletes and the documentary evidence submitted in the case, Finigan said.
Stapleton said he was most disturbed by Heredia's testimony that he personally filled out FedEx shipments receipts addressed to Graham even though the handwriting appeared dramatically different.
"My question is why did the prosecutors put up a witness who had the audacity to lie to us under oath," Stapleton said. "That was their key witness."
The federal government steroids probe has ensnared a number of athletes, including home run king Barry Bonds, who is facing trial on 14 counts of making false declarations to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice for his testimony in front of the BALCO grand jury in 2003.
Investigators are also looking into whether pitcher Roger Clemens lied when he told Congress he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press