Track Coach Trevor Graham Convicted in BALCO Investigation

By: Josh Dubow AP
By: Josh Dubow AP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Track coach Trevor Graham was found guilty
Thursday of one count of lying to federal investigators about his relationship to a steroids dealer.

Jurors could not reach a verdict on two other counts, including whether Graham set up his athletes with drugs obtained from Angel
"Memo" Heredia.

Graham, who coached former star sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, is the second person from the BALCO doping 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.

The maximum sentence for Graham's conviction on one count of lying is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He likely will receive much less at his sentencing hearing, scheduled Sept. 5 before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

Graham was charged with three counts of lying to two IRS agents about his relationship with 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," defense attorney William 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.

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 was deliberately misleading and had problems deciding 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 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."

Stapleton said he believed the government was determined to make an example of Graham and was willing "to do a deal with a true devil" to achieve that goal.

Keane portrayed his client as "the original whistle blower in BALCO" who later was made a scapegoat. In 2003, Graham anonymously sent the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a vial of "the clear," a then undetectable steroid.

Prosecutors countered that Graham only sent the vial because he was "diming out another drug dealer."

Investigators traced the vial back to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and used that information to help determine the company was distributing performance-enhancing drugs to elite athletes.

The federal government steroids probe has ensnared a number of athletes, including home run king Barry Bonds. Investigators are also looking into whether pitcher Roger Clemens lied when he told Congress he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Graham is the latest BALCO figure to be convicted. Eight others, including Jones and BALCO founder Victor Conte, have pleaded guilty
to various charges of perjury, drug and money laundering charges.

Jones is serving a six-month prison sentence, and Montgomery recently was sentenced to four years after pleading guilty to writing bad checks. He also faces heroin distribution charges.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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