By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2008
Long buried tales of performance-enhancing drug use among a generation of retired track and field athletes, some Olympic medal winners, some largely unknown, are expected to fill a San Francisco federal courtroom this week during the trial of Trevor Graham, the former coach of jailed track star Marion Jones.
Past U.S. Olympians who trained as much as a decade ago with Graham, who has been charged with lying to federal investigators about his relationship with an acknowledged drug dealer, will face him in the wood-paneled court room of Judge Susan Illston and admit to obtaining or using performance-enhancing drugs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to documents filed by prosecutors in recent weeks.
Graham, meantime, is expected to try to force the dealer and prosecution witness, Angel "Memo" Heredia, to disclose his own client list, which Heredia has described as "explosive" and Graham has said would embarrass the United States on the eve of the Olympics in China.
As speculation has risen about who will be outed and whether their achievements will be merely tarnished or eventually rescinded from record books, U.S. sport officials have tried to distance current U.S. athletes from those likely to emerge during the trial. They have dismissed the expected revelations as an unseemly byproduct of a dirty era in U.S. sports that they say has been, and continues to be, scrubbed clean.
"I truly believe we have turned the corner in a big way," U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said. "While it's sometimes tough to expose the underbelly and dark side of sport, I think it's absolutely necessary to clean up sport and move in the right direction. . . . We're at the point where we've got a new generation of athletes that have learned from the past."
The trial, some say, will represent one of the final remnants of a largely government-led crackdown against performance-enhancing drug use in U.S. professional and Olympic sports. It has brought shame, competition bans, anti-doping rule changes and -- for the first time in U.S. sporting history -- the real threat of criminal sanctions to athletes who abuse steroids, human growth hormone and other drugs, and coaches that distribute them.
The trial coincides with the case against former baseball slugger Barry Bonds, charged with 14 counts of making false statements under oath when he testified before a 2003 grand jury. Bonds is expected to go to trial in the next year. In addition, legendary pitcher Roger Clemens and former Baltimore Orioles star Miguel Tejada remain under investigation for possible perjury in connection with their denials of drug use in front of Congress. Several other performance-enhancing drug cases with connections to professional athletes remain open.
If there is any deterrent effect from the indictments and courtroom drama, it is difficult to judge how great it will be. Experts say performance-enhancing drug use will never be fully contained, and athletes will always seek out new ways to get an edge.
Led largely by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of California and Jeff Novitzky, a former IRS investigator, , the investigation that infiltrated the U.S. sporting drug culture began as a hunt for evidence through trash dumpsters in 2002 outside the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco), a nutrition company that provided steroids and other illicit drugs to dozens of prominent athletes. The probe has led so far to the convictions of seven people with ties to the lab: two athletes, one chemist, two businessmen, one track coach and Bonds's former trainer.
One of the athletes, Jones, was forced to return all five medals she won at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. She is serving a six-month jail sentence for lying to federal investigators about her steroid use and role in a check-fraud scheme.
The recent penal sanctions, U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth said, were one reason he felt comfortable all but guaranteeing that the United States would take a drug-free Olympic team to Beijing for the Aug. 8-24 Summer Games.
"This will be a clean team," Ueberroth said a month ago in Chicago. "I think we've got an unusual group of athletes who've seen people suffer from cheating."
More pain may be yet to come.
The biggest name to surface in the run-up to the Graham trial has been Maurice Greene, the former 100-meter champion world record holder who won two gold medals at the 2000 Olympics. Heredia told investigators Greene wired him $14,000 in 2003 for a massive assortment of performance-enhancing substances: testosterone cream, a peptide hormone called Gonadorelin, adrenalin, erythropoietin, human growth hormone and injectable IGF-1, according to his December 2006 interview with Novitzky and other agents, a copy of which The Washington Post obtained.
He claimed Greene "got scared" in 2004 and stopped working with him, but that he remained in touch with Greene's coach, John Smith, until days before the interview.
Greene, who never flunked a drug test, has denied using drugs and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world track and field governing body, has stood by him. Greene's attorney, Emanuel Hudson, denied the allegations when contacted about them in January, calling them "ludicrous," but has not returned recent calls.
Smith said in a statement he "does not condone the use of performance-enhancing substances or other banned products."
Heredia, meantime, admitted to investigators he was seeking a book deal. He has claimed to several media outlets that he helped dozens of athletes win competitions and medals.
Besides Heredia, a former thrower from Mexico, more than a half-dozen former athletes have been identified in court records by the prosecution as potential witnesses. They include Antonio Pettigrew, who won a gold medal in the 4x400 relay at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney; Jerome Young, a member of the same relay team who was already stripped of his medal because of a doping offense; Calvin Harrison, another member of the 2000 Olympic relay team who served a doping ban in connection to his involvement with Balco; and Dennis Mitchell, who won a gold, silver and bronze medal at the 1992 and 1996 Summer Games but served a drug ban after a positive test for testosterone in 1998.
Prosecutors hope disclosures from Graham's former athletes will convince the jury Graham lied when he said during a June 8, 2004, that he never referred any athletes to Heredia or provided them with drugs from Heredia.
Graham seems to hope unearthing the extensive nature of Heredia's clientele will support the theory that he was set up by vindictive dealers and athletes whose industry was short-circuited in 2003, when he sent in a syringe full of steroids to USADA, a quasi-government agency created in 2000 to oversee anti-doping matters in the United States.
The syringe helped ignite the federal investigation in which Graham is now ensnared. He faces up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for three counts of making false statements to federal agents.
As the trial proceeds, America's latest crop of track and field stars, whose Olympic trials are scheduled for late June, will continue perhaps an even tougher battle of perception. A handful of the sport's most highly regarded stars, including Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Brian Clay and Lauryn Williams, announced last month they had signed on to a program of additional and uncommonly rigorous blood and urine testing from USADA. Nicknamed "Project Believe," the effort is designed to help athletes prove they are drug-free.
Which might be the biggest task of all as the clean-up continues, according to outgoing USA Track and Field Chief Executive Officer Craig Masback, who has accepted a position with shoe giant Nike.
Said Masback to an audience of Princeton students in late April: "The public and media have come to say, 'Why should I believe anything that happens in your sport?' "