Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 33

This is the 33rd submission in a long series about Marion Jones, a former elite sprinter who won honour and earned endorsements, fame and fortune by method of fraud. The 30th series introduces Trevor Graham into the picture.

Marion Jones began her professional athletics career in March 1997 with a working relationship with Trevor Graham – a coach she’d later turn over as a conspirator to defraud the sport and ruin her career, and a man who would be sentenced to 12 months in home-confinement for lying to U.S. Federal authorities concerning the BALCO affair.

Though this section of the series may be a general history lesson for some of you, the information contained in this series is imperative to the sum of the whole.

Trevor Graham is neither saint nor saviour in this fight against performance-enhancing drugs. He has, according to Grand Jury testimony, been linked with drugs peddling and deception procedures – with his two biggest fish, Marion Jones and Gatlin – caught in the net. Concerning the syringe, Graham is stated to have discussed his plans for it with his son, T.J. Graham, but not with his wife, Ann, whom the US Federal agents have identified as a “drug detective”.

According to an investigator's report the San Jose Mercury News obtained in 2004-July, Graham asked his son “how he would feel if his opponent on the football field took a drug that could make him stronger” while considering what to do with the syringe.

Victor Conte has gone one further on the syringe issue, stating that Graham, with pressure from HSI coach John Smith, turned in the syringe to keep athletes who were using Conte’s illegal products who were not part of either Sprint Capitol or HSI from competing against Smith’s and Graham’s associates, who, in the long run, appear to have been Maurice Greene on the men’s side (against Tim Montgomery, whom Conte had helped with a world record plan) and Marion Jones (with Chryste Gaines receiving her supply from Conte) among others.

“I don't think Trevor Graham used drugs (on his athletes),” Conte said. “I know he used drugs. I had multiple discussions with him about drugs. I even handed him the drugs sometimes. But that's not what this case is about.”[1]

The USADA acted on these “non-analytical positives”, sending a letter of notice to Graham in November 2007 accusing him of doping his athletes.

According to the Associated Press, evidence in USADA's case against Graham included testimony from athletes – including Marion Jones, as well as information that became public when Federal authorities released details of his indictment, undisclosed sources said. It was also reported that USADA’s timing of the letter came after the indictments, so as not to hinder the federal investigation.

The evidences also included more than 100 telephone conversations – including ones secretly taped – occurred between Graham and Heredia after 1997, when Graham stated he no longer had contact with the drug supplier.

It was Graham who was behind the test tube leak of clear liquid residue from the syringe – the person who had initiated the eventual re-testing of samples collected which showed signs of the drug THG – including Tim Montgomery’s. THG was not previously named on either the WADA or IOC prohibited-substance lists. However, Dr. Catlin was able to scientifically demonstrate that chemically and pharmacologically THG was directly derived from an identified anabolic steroid, gestrinone.

Graham stated under oath on the second day of his trial that he was encouraged to send in the syringe by his son, a local reporter and Smith.

It was Graham who had contacted a prominent track and field official, who, in their turn contacted USADA’s media representative, Rich Wanniner, on 2003-June-04, stating that an informant (Graham) had information regarding the production and distribution of an undetectable performance-enhancing drug. Two days later, a syringe with an unknown substance arrived by express mail at the USADA offices.

Additionally, it was Graham who identified by name several elite American and international track and field athletes taking Conte’s products, though none of them, as per Graham, were in his own camp.

Graham reached Wanniner the following day on his own accord, and informed him that Victor Conte of BALCO Laboratories was producing an undetectable performance-enhancing drug, and distributing it to elite athletes, a drug which athletes were taking without fear of testing positive.

Don Catlin received the THG-filled syringe eight days later, on 2003-June-13. Graham’s whistle-blowing does not conceal his apparent intrinsic involvement with the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs – a fact which the USOC and IAAF have worked on to Graham’s disadvantage.

Unfortunately in this saga, however, that whistle-blowing is what saved Graham from going to prison – an honest effort Judge Illston made very evident to consider when she handed Graham his sentence.

Graham had apparently trimmed his group down to eight following the 2004 Olympics, stating to the News & Observer in November 2004 that having a smaller group would make it easier to ensure all of his athletes were clean – a remark made in response to accusations that members of his team were caught doping in the past. He states he made a vigilant attempt to keep drugs out of his group.

“At least now I can observe more, and I can see what's going on a little bit more,” Graham said. “Before, you got so many people you don't know exactly what's going on. I was trying to cut back the group so I can be more observant and see things that I probably couldn't see before.”[2]

The first flag that is raised here is that Graham has absolutely and unequivocally stated that he is certain that Marion Jones has never taken performance-enhancing drugs, though this has now been contradicted by Marion Jones in public and in court. How would Graham have known this without being at her side at all times and with the number of athletes he had on his team?

His rationale for trimming the track club was to keep a vigilant eye on the goings-on, yet, when the team was larger, he knew with absolutely certainty – beyond any semblance of a doubt – that Marion Jones was clean, but didn’t know about anyone else – including her partner, Montgomery, with whom she lived, practiced and travelled to meets.

What Graham still refused to see was that, despite this pruning, another of his flock of eight would go down for performance-enhancing drugs. Sprinter LaTasha Jenkins – based on an accurate story run in the Chicago Tribune late in August 2006 – was apparently the final Graham-coached athlete to fail a drugs test.[3]

Jenkins was one more charge under his watchful eye – an eye which had more time to see, watch, observe and understand now that his group was trimmed to the bone (LaTasha Colander-Richardson, Debbie Dunn, Suziann Reid and Jamaican runners Julien Dunkley, Gregory Haughton, Ian Weakley and Patrick Jarrett were cut from Graham’s corps).

(Note: Jenkins’s case went to arbitration, where a three person panel ruled the results of Jenkins' positive doping samples collected at a track meet in Belgium in 2006 were compromised because both the Ghent, Belgium and Cologne, Germany labs testing her sample violated international standards that require the tests be run by two different technicians).

Prior to the snipping of athletes from his care, he was coaching Marion Jones back in 1997, and did know what was going on with his group of sprinters; Marion Jones stated that Graham provided her drugs leading up to Sydney, but had she had labelled him “a great technician” earlier – a man she left at the helm of her ship.

Graham was to have helped her perfect timings and placements, the result being faster times, consistency and a perceptible elevation in status among the world’s elite. What he could not deliver on was adequately improving Marion Jones’s long jumping technique, and she apparently left his camp in the winter of 2002 over “different opinions,”[4] in order to work with an obscure coach in Canada named Derek Hansen, based in Vancouver.

The Marion Jones-Trevor Graham combination did succeed in perfecting timings and placements, being consistent and rising from the ashes to the top of the world: Marion Jones was able to time her drug-taking schedules, place her controversies to the side, consistently out-run WADA and USADA officials searching for evidence suggesting drugs usage, and rise to the top of the sports and marketing worlds. They were also able to nearly perfect one other important area critical to her ambitious athletics life: plausible deniability on either end of the coach-athlete relationship until Graham’s trial got underway in 2007.

Graham was able to time his exits from drug testing problems with impeccable precision, place his athletes in the line of fire, consistently turn up near dirty athletes, and rise up another Sprint Capitol athlete when yet another athlete was whisked away for two years in the hole. He was also able to completely deny that Marion Jones ever took drugs, and deny that he provided drugs to her until she, on her own behalf, testified to the contrary, namely that Graham had provided her drugs through what she stated she was told to be “flaxseed oil”.

That timing system began to tick the opposite direction in 2006 with the USOC banning him from each of their training centres – of which he had no immediate usage. A threat to ban Sprint Capitol athletes from the Berlin ISTAF Golden League meeting in September, 2006 followed in succession. No athletes were refused entry to the meet.

Had evidence been found against Graham that he engaged in doping engagements, ESPN.com reported that the IAAF and USADA would initiate disciplinary proceedings against him.

“In order to defend the credibility of our sport, we will engage all our efforts, in co-operation with partners such as USADA, to defend the majority of athletes who are clean, against athletes, coaches, managers or any other support personnel who break our anti-doping rules.”[5]

USATF’s Board of Directors approved in December 2006 a revision to its existing Zero Tolerance plan, creating a system which takes action against coaches and others in a position to influence athletes, including medical personnel and agents.

The new “Registered Coach” system requires all coaches seeking stipends, credentials to national meets and staff positions on national teams to apply for the new designation. Should they have any athletes currently serving a two- or more year ban, or if they, themselves, have been sanctioned as an athlete or as a coach, their “Registered Coach” status will be brought before a review panel.

All athletes at the 2007 USATF Outdoor Championships – under the adaptation of this new programme – were required to state who their coaches were.

USATF will amend its Authorized Athlete Representative Application Form to inquire whether the Agent has previously represented someone who’s been disciplined for doping offenses, whether the Agents, themselves, have ever been disciplined for a doping offense, and demand the Agents not encourage, aid or abet athletes to use PEDs or techniques.

“This expansion of our Zero Tolerance policy provides protection for our athletes, the sport, and coaches who are doing things the right way,” said then-acting USATF CEO Craig A. Masback. “While USADA remains responsible for issuing doping bans, the Board of Directors recognizes how critical it is that we do everything we can to deny USATF benefits to those who may be influencing athletes to use drugs.”[6]

USATF will also decline to promote to the media and/or sponsors athletes who work with ineligible coaches.

According to Sports Illustrated, Hershey was embarrassed in 2006 when it had structured a deal with Gatlin to appear at its Hershey Youth Championships. Gatlin’s support team released news of his positive test just before the meet was held.

Dick Pound, WADA’s former chief, believed the evidence was already sufficient to connect Graham to doping prior to Graham's trial.

“The string of Graham's athletes who have been linked with or disciplined for doping seems to me to be too long to be mere coincidence,” said Dick Pound, a Montreal attorney who is head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, in a statement. “Also, I do not think a coach can be unaware of drug use by his athletes. And, if aware, he did nothing about it or them, he is complicit.”[7]

The key theme in this Graham relationship is mendacity, much as it was on Broadway in 1955.

Folks with high price tags have been involved in bamboozlement, and have boondoggled those who would care to not believe otherwise.

Marion Jones had never taken a defensive stance against Trevor Graham until she realised that his trial would create havoc for her, and Graham had repeatedly come to Marion Jones’s aide when she had had a perceived need of public support. Graham had always claimed that he has had no specific knowledge of any of his other star athletes using drugs, and went so far as to maintain that in a later case Gatlin (who has admitted to the accuracy of an April 2006 test revealing he has elevated testosterone levels without admitting guilt in the matter) was set up in his drugs case by a masseur with a grudge.

Regarding Marion Jones, Graham had stated that people were out to get her, because she was on the top. Marion Jones turned the tables on Graham, and made it appear in her statements to Federal authorities that she was out to get him – a point which Graham’s attorney, William Keane, stated during his opening argument on 2008-May-19 before Judge Illston.

“These prosecution witnesses have biases against Mr. Graham,” Keane told the jury. “They have self-serving agendas that have led them to make false accusations against Mr. Graham.”[8]

Graham, when earlier asked if Colander’s, Gatlin’s and Crawford’s successes were a sufficient replacement for the loss of Marion Jones and Montgomery in 2002, stated: “I wouldn't say that. I want to continue to produce. In Raleigh, we always produce the best sprinters in the world. We're going to continue to do that. It's not like I was out for revenge. As a coach, you lose athletes and gain athletes. You've got to continue to do what you do best.”[9]



[1] San Diego Union Tribune, “Ex-track coach accused of lying to investigators,” 2008-05-19 [2] The News & Observer, “Graham Trims Capitol”, 2004-11-10 [3] Chicago Tribune, “Local sprinter tests positive for doping”, 2006-08-24 [4] The Independent on Sunday, “Jones ditches coach over ‘differing of opinions’”, 2002-12-15 [5] ESPN.com, “IAAF also investigating Gatlin’s coach Graham”, 2006-08-10 [6] USATF News release 2006-12-07 [7] The News & Observer, “Athletes’ ties to doping put their coach in exile”, 2006-08-06 [8] San Francisco Chronicle, “Jones, Montgomery led officials to former coach Graham”, 2008-05-19 [9] The New York Times, “Spotlight on Graham at Olympic Trials”, 2004-07-13

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