Drugs in Sport: Graham facing long jail term for lying to inquiry

Trevor Graham, former coach to disgraced athletes Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin, faces up to five years in prison after being found guilty at his trial in San Francisco yesterday of one count of perjury. A jury concluded he had lied to investigators about his relationship to steroid dealer Angel "Memo" Heredia.

In the meantime, Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, is considering ways to alter the current limitation of eight years on retroactive doping sanctions to nullify results gained by Antonio Pettigrew, a prosecution witness at the trial who confessed to doping since 1997.

That would make it possible for Britain's 400m relay team, who took silver behind a United States team including Pettigrew at the 1997 World Championships, being promoted to gold.

"Pettigrew has confessed he was doping since 1997," said Diack. "We have a rule saying that we cannot go over eight years. We have to look: are we ready to have this rule changed?"

The US 400m relay team which won the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and included world record holder Michael Johnson, also faces losing gold medals.

Graham was charged with three counts of lying to two IRS agents about his relationship with Heredia, a former discus thrower from Texas, who bought performance-enhancing drugs in Mexico and claimed to have sold them to many 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 him in person and that he last contacted him by phone in about 1997.

The North Carolina-based coach had been granted immunity from prosecution on the proviso that he did not lie about his own doping activities. The jurors convicted Graham on the charge relating to the phone calls, but a mistrial was declared on the other two.

Graham is scheduled to be sentenced on 5 September and could still be retried on the remaining counts. His lawyer, William Keane, added that his client would probably seek a judgment for acquittal in spite of the jury's guilty verdict.

Heredia gave evidence against Graham last week, as did five of his former athletes, including Pettigrew and fellow Olympic gold medallists Dennis Mitchell and Jerome Young. They claimed Graham advised them to use illegal substances and helped provide the drugs themselves.

Keane dismissed the witnesses as tainted and unreliable, and suggested his client had become a scapegoat for shamed athletes looking for excuses.

Graham was charged in the wake of a federal investigation into a doping ring operated through Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (Balco), an investigation which he triggered himself by sending to US anti-doping authorities a syringe of the previously undetectable steroid, THG, which Balco's owner Victor Conte was supplying to athletes.

Consequently eight people, including Jones, who won five medals at the Sydney Olympics, Conte and Britain's Dwain Chambers, have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges. Jones is currently serving a six-month prison sentence.

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