High-Profile Track Coach Goes on Trial

Former track coach Trevor Graham goes on trial Monday in San Francisco on charges he lied to federal investigators. Several prominent athletes coached by Graham have been banned for steroid use.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The trial begins today for a prominent track coach in San Francisco. His name is Trevor Graham. He's accused of lying to federal agents investigating the BALCO doping scandal.

Mr. Graham has coached some of the world's top sprinters, so this trial could reveal the depth of drug use at the top levels of the sport. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: The irony of Trevor Graham getting ensnared in the BALCO doping investigation is that he's the guy who triggered it all five years ago. It was Graham who sent a syringe containing the previously undetectable steroid called THG to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Graham portrayed himself as an anti-doping crusader, but others say his motives hardly were pure, and suspect he was guided by a desire to take down his rivals in the track world.

Prosecutors will assert that Graham was very involved with drugs. Their star witness is a former discus thrower from Mexico named Angel Heredia. David Walsh, a veteran sportswriter for the Sunday Times of London recently interviewed Heredia.

Mr. DAVID WALSH (Sunday Times of London): He's basically telling that he's been involved in supplying banned performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

GOLDMAN: Including the Olympic 100-meter champion from 2000, Maurice Greene, who denies the allegation.

Ms. WALSH: And to athletes' coaches.

GOLDMAN: Including Trevor Graham, whose stable of U.S. track stars has included Marion Jones and 2004 Olympic 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin, who's currently serving a doping ban.

Graham is on trial for perjury, lying to federal agents about his alleged links over the past decade to Angel Heredia. In 2004 he denied any drug connections.

Both sides in the case plan to present elite athletes either as witnesses or by name as having used banned drugs. For a public that thought it saw everything when Marion Jones tearfully admitted lying about doping and then went off to jail, the trial essentially will send the message there's a lot more where that came from. David Walsh.

Mr. WALSH: Doping in American track and field, and I'm sure in many other track and fields around the world, has been far more prevalent than even the most-skeptical people imagined.

Unidentified Man: Here we go now with the Nutrilite women's 100-meter dash. This is section two.

GOLDMAN: A world-class field in the women's 100 meters highlighted yesterday's Adidas Track Classic in Carson, California. With the Olympics just a few months away, it's a time of increasing focus for the athletes. The distraction of the Trevor Graham doping trial is rotten timing, but a few days before the meet, some of the stars dutifully fielded questions about it from reporters and tried to distance themselves from the muck sure to come out in the trial.

Jeremy Wariner won the 2004 Olympic gold medal in the 400 meters.

Mr. JEREMY WARINER (Olympic Gold Medalist): Whenever we go out there and run fast, break a record, win a big meet, the first thing some people think of is, oh, they're on something. But we're really not. We're out there doing what we do the right way.

GOLDMAN: Indeed, even skeptics believe the new generation is cleaner because of all the scrutiny now. When asked what he'd say to people who've stopped watching track and field because they think the sport is dirty, Wariner said this.

Mr. WARINER: Just believe in us again.

GOLDMAN: It appears to be a long road. On a beautiful sunny day yesterday, the stands at the Adidas meet were less than half full, and Chinese Olympic officials agreed to switch the swimming and gymnastics finals to the morning in Beijing this summer so NBC can show them in primetime in the U.S. It's likely most of track and field, the long-time glamour event of the Olympic games, will be aired on tape delay. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Carson, California.

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