Track Coach Charged with Obstruction in Balco Case Track and field coach Trevor Graham has been charged with impeding the Balco investigation of drug use by some of the world's best athletes. Graham, one of the highest-profile track coaches in the world, has coached stars such as Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery.
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Track Coach Charged with Obstruction in Balco Case

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Track Coach Charged with Obstruction in Balco Case

Track Coach Charged with Obstruction in Balco Case

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One of track and field's most prominent coaches has been indicted on charges that he lied to officials investigating the Balco doping scandal. Trevor Graham has coached star athletes such as Justin Gatlin, Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. He's also the man credited with helping launch the investigation into the Balco lab back in 2003. Today, Graham's lawyers said that Graham is not guilty and, quote, "without Trevor's integrity and courage, the issue of performance enhancing substances in the sport may never have been examined."

I spoke with NPR's sport correspondent, Tom Goldman about the charges against Trevor Graham.

TOM GOLDMAN: Robert, he was charged with three counts of making false statements. The indictment alleges that Graham lied to agents in 2004 by stating that he never set up any of his athletes with drugs. The indictment alleges that in fact Graham obtained illegal performance enhancing drugs and thereafter provided them to athletes he was coaching and also, he referred athletes he was coaching to an unnamed source to obtain illegal performance enhancing drugs directly from that source.

SIEGEL: Well, what would you say is the significance of this indictment against him for lying?

GOLDMAN: He's the sixth person charged in the Balco doping scandal. The second coach. And anti-doping officials talk about the importance of going beyond the athletes and prosecuting coaches, doctors, support personnel for the athletes.

There have been suspicions for some time about Graham. In recent years, at least six of his top athletes have been suspended for doping. And he didn't always have the best explanations, either.

In the book The Game of Shadows, about the Balco doping scandal, there's a passage recounting how Graham suggested once that an athlete tested positive for steroids because he'd taken a hard fall and the jolt had caused excess levels of testosterone to be secreted, he said. The authors of Game of Shadows say this is the doping equivalent of catching a venereal disease from a toilet seat.

Graham's prize pupil, Justin Gatlin, admitted this past summer that he tested positive for testosterone. Gatlin is the co-World Record holder in the 100 meters. After that, this is really the breaking point with Graham, at least for the US Olympic Committee. The committee banned Graham from Olympic training facilities around the country after that incident.

SIEGEL: The irony of the indictment of Trevor Graham is that, as I understand it, he started the whole investigation into the Balco mess.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's absolutely right, and that is ironic. He admitted that he was the person back in 2003 who sent a syringe to the US anti-doping agency, and the syringe contained an undetectable steroid at the time called bicleare(ph). And it was the drug really at the heart of the Balco scandal. It was linked to such prominent athletes as Marion Jones and Barry Bonds. Jones denies ever using any banned performance enhancing drugs. Court records say Bonds took bicleare, but he allegedly did it without knowing that it was a banned steroid.

SIEGEL: So the impact of an indictment of Trevor Graham on track and field

GOLDMAN: Well, track certification really couldn't be any worse right now. This past summer, as I mentioned, Justin Gatlin got nailed, Marion Jones had an initial positive test for epose(ph) and the B sample came back negative, and that discrepancy still hasn't been explained.

Track officials acknowledge the problem with doping, but they try to sound positive. But there's a real credibility problem. It's kind of like baseball, track and field is a sport of numbers, with times and distances defining competition. And how can you trust athletes to keep shaving off hundredths of seconds when there's so much doping, both real and imagined, swirling around.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman.

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