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Tuesday 24, Jun 2008

  Another head rolls in steroid crackdown

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trevor-grahamWhat now for Trevor Graham?

The once admired track coach is now facing an insurmountable obstacle – a prison term. He was found guilty last month of one count of lying to federal investigators about his relationship with steroid dealer turned prosecution’s witness Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on two other counts because at least one juror had doubts about the star witness’ credibility.

Prosecutors, who can retry the Graham on the other two charges, had no comment on their next move. Graham’s attorney William Keane said he is hoping the government would not retry Graham.

“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,” Keane said. “As we maintained all along we did not believe that the government could prove that case. It simply was not true.”

Graham sentencing hearing is set on September 5 before US District Judge Susan Illston. The maximum penalty for Graham’s guilty verdict on one count of perjury is five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. However, he is expected to receive much less than that.

Graham has consistently denied his relationship with Heredia – a Laredo, Texas, discus thrower who testified that he bought steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in Mexico and sold them to many star track athletes who trained under Graham.

Heredia narrated for the jury in U.S. District Court in San Francisco his business dealings with Trevor Graham. He said their association began in 1996 when Graham wanted a reliable supplier of steroids and PEDs. Graham, according to Heredia, also wanted someone to teach him the tricks of the trade, including how to beat steroid screening. He said he taught the Graham many things, including about clearance times of steroids and what kinds of drugs were undetectable that would boost performance.

Wednesday 18, Jun 2008

  Coach Trevor Graham found guilty in steroid investigation

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trevor-grahamThe jury announced a guilty verdict in the trial of former elite track coach Trevor Graham. Graham is the latest add-on in the score card of steroid prosecutors stemming from the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative steroid investigation.

The jury convicted Graham of only one count out of the three charges against him. The jury reached a deadlock on the two other charges because, according to reports, at least one juror was reportedly had doubts about the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness, Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia.

Graham was found guilty of lying to federal authorities regarding his relationship with Heredia, a self-confessed steroid dealer and user. Heredia has testified that he had supplied Graham steroids and other banned substances to be used by his track trainees.

The decision was lauded by some groups in competitive sports. “This verdict is another example of how the cooperation between law enforcement authorities and anti-doping agencies is allowing us to get at this problem in a deeper way,” U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said. “This verdict also underscores the importance for athletes to make good decisions in choosing who to work with.”

Graham did not testify in his trial; however, some members of his former roster of track stars did, including Olympic gold winner Antonio Pettigrew. Due to his public admission of steroid use, Pettigrew has been left with no choice but to give up his gold medal he won at 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. Marion Jones, another athlete who trained under Graham, has been stripped of the medals she won dating back to September 2000. This after admitting she had used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

And it seems like the crackdown will not stop with Graham’s and Tammy Thomas’ guilty decisions. Thomas, an Olympic cycling gold medalist, was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice charges April this year. Many observers say these two trials are just warm ups for Barry Bonds. Slugger Bonds is also set to face a similar trial, which is expected to happen next year.

Thursday 12, Jun 2008

  Steroid dealer’s paper trail leads to coach, athletes

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Angel Memo Heredia SteroidsTen percent is what it might take to convict Trevor Graham.

When Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia heard that federal authorities had blown the cover off of the biggest steroid scandal ever, he began destroying documents that could spell out prison term to him. All he saved was about 10% of the paper trail, and many legal observers say that could make all the difference in the world for former sprint coach Trevor Graham.

Heredia is now a very cooperative witness for the prosecution against defendant Graham. He is expected to stand witness during the trial of Graham, which started Monday and is expected to be over in two weeks time. Just several days since the trial began, Heredia already squeaked out a mountain of incriminatory testimony against Graham.

Heredia said that throughout the 1990s, he had supplied Graham steroids and other drugs for the use of Graham’s Sprint Capitol athletes. He said there were instances when he sent steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs directly to those athletes, including Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Jerome Young, Antonio Pettigrew and Dennis Mitchell. There were also times when he sent steroids and other drugs via Graham, according to Heredia.

And Heredia has the remaining 10% paper trail to back his testimony. He’s got shipping and money transfer receipts, photos as well as blood test results to show the jury and the whole courtroom. Indeed, it was a show-and-tell testimony to the glee of the prosecution panel.

Prosecutors also played tapes of secretly recorded conversations between their informant Heredia and Graham in 2006, in which the two men seemed to have a close (closer than what had Graham has admitted to) with each other.

Graham has repeatedly denied that he did not lie with the federal investigators when they asked about his relationship with Heredia several years back. According to Graham, his association with Heredia was limited to just one innocent phone conversation with the guy.

Wednesday 11, Jun 2008

  Coach Graham should have whistled another tune in steroid scandal

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Angel Memo Heredia Steroids

I shouldn’t have made that phone call – must be what keeps repeating on Trevor Graham’s head for weeks now.

The former elite sprint coach is on trial for lying to government authorities in 2004 when he said he didn’t know Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia beyond that one phone conversation he had with the confessed steroid dealer. Heredia is now the prosecution’s ace witness against Graham.

It was Graham who blew the whistle on BALCO, a company headquartered in Burlingame, California, which has steamrolled the investigation of one of the biggest steroid scandal in the U.S. It all began when Graham made an anonymous phone call to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in June 2003. He divulged juicy details on doping activity of quite a number of athletes, and two things immediately caught USADA’s attention. First, that athletes were using a steroid that could pass detection. Second, the name Victor Conte. Conte was the founder and owner of BALCO, a sports medicine and nutritional supplement company. Conte also has ties with several professional sports organizations and popular athletes. Graham said Conte was the source of the undetectable steroid.

It was also Graham who brought a syringe with traces of the designer steroid, which was known as The Clear by its users. The Clear was later identified by investigators as tetrahydrogestrinone or THG. Subsequently, search and seizure were conducted by federal agents that uncovered the massive use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by American and European athletes from diverse competitive sports. MLB players Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi; cyclist Tammy Thomas; track and field stars Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, and Kelli White; NFL’s Barrett Robbins, Chris Cooper, and Dana Stubblefield were just some of the those implicated in said steroid scandal.

Several of the personalities involved have already served their sentence, including Conte and BALCO’s chemist Patrick Arnold. It was Arnold who developed The Clear. Meanwhile, other personalities like Marion Jones are currently on federal institutions because of BALCO-related crimes.

Saturday 07, Jun 2008

  Heredia, Novitsky vs Graham in steroids trial

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trevor-graham-steroidsTrevor Graham has fulfilled so many roles in the past years. First, he gained popularity as an athletics coach to track and field stars like Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. Then in 2003, he was the whistleblower that has blown the top off of the whole BALCO fiasco, exposing the massive steroids use in the sporting world. Now, his attorney was saying Graham is being used as a “convenient scapegoat for their past mistakes and their past drug use” by athletes who have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) like anabolic steroids.

This was the statement of his attorney to the federal jury at his opening trial on Monday. Graham has pleaded not guilty to three charges of perjury. He said he never lied to federal investigators regarding his relationship with Angel “Memo” Heredia, a former steroids dealer turned government witness in the aftermath of BALCO steroids scandal.

In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors helped Heredia, a Mexican national, keep his U.S. work visa. Heredia will take the witness stand against Graham during the trial. It was reported that Heredia has secretly taped his conversation with Graham back in 2006 in Eugene, Ore., during the Prefontaine Nike Classic track meet. Heredia also taped other phone calls with Graham, which prosecutors plan to use as evidence.

Graham has initially said that he has had one phone conversation with the Mexican. Graham also denied that he met Heredia in person. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Finigan, however, showed the jury a photo showing the two standing next to each other. The photo was said to be taken in 1996.

The trial is expected to run for two weeks and another controversial personality to take the witness stand is former IRS agent Jeff Novitsky, the leader on the raid of BALCO in 2003. Novitsky is now an investigator at the Food and Drug Adminsitration.

Finigan on Monday told the jury that two IRS agents interviewed Graham in June 2004 regarding Marion Jones. The agents wanted to know if the track star committed a perjury when she told a grand jury that she never took anabolic steroids and other drugs. Jones is currently serving a six-month prison term after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators regarding her use of steroids and PEDs.

Sunday 04, May 2008

  Graham vs Heredia – A Likely Face-off in Steroid Scandal

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trevor graham steroids‘Interesting’ might be a lackluster word to describe the likely confrontation of Trevor Graham and Angel Heredia in the continuing saga of the BALCO Affair, a nasty exposè in the use of steroids in professional athletics.

As the trial of the now infamous track and field coach Trevor Graham looms, there is now a consensus among legal experts and other observers that Heredia would be a key witness in the long-running federal investigation in the use of steroids by famous athletes.

Angel Guillermo Heredia is identified as Source A in the felony indictment and has cooperated with federal investigators to be a witness three years ago. Well, let’s put it this way – Heredia was given no choice but to cooperate considering investigators presented him with a pile of evidence of his steroid-dispensing and money-laundering activities. Even with steroids in his system, bet you he would never surmount the obstacle, and so he agreed. And since his momentous decision, Heredia has provided prosecutors valuable documentation of this huge steroid scandal including the names of many elite track athletes and Olympic medal winners whom he alleged had used steroids. Heredia has implicated Coach Trevor Graham.

But Graham, who is charged with three counts of making false statements to federal agents, says that he is innocent. Graham is quite vehement that he does not have direct knowledge of and involvement on the athletes’ use steroids. As a defensive maneuver to dismiss the accusations, Graham’s camp says the government’s key witness is a tainted one. They say the case had been built on accusations by Mr. Heredia that “are not true and are merely an effort to attempt to divert attention from his illicit drug dealing and the illicit drug usage by athletes.” They say that up to now Heredia is still a conduit of steroids. Such maneuver, however, has been denied.

Graham’s trial, scheduled on May 19, would surely have an effect of the sports of track and field in particular and the upcoming 2008 Olympics in general.

Graham sums it all up: “The problem with my trial now, you’ve got the Olympic Games coming up. There’s going to be a lot of publicity on a lot of people’s parts who did a lot of things behind closed doors. . . . Now it’s all going to be dragged out in front of the whole world. It’s going to embarrass the United States and it’s going to embarrass these athletes. These athletes are retired. They’ve moved on.”