Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 34

Story by Eric.

This is the 34th 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 introduced 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 has in his coaching career at Sprint Capitol produced and lost the top sprinters in the world, and he’s kept his promise of continuing to do that. Thus far in his tumultuous career he’s had 15 athletes (including a paralympian) climb up – and fall down – the ladder into a pool of resignation or banishment, with Marion Jones the latest of the lot.

Graham appeared to continue doing what he does best – pump out a very high percentage of world elites caught in doping scandals (some of whom turn from one event to another and find immediate success) under his watch – while remaining completely oblivious to what is occurring.

Crawford and Barber cut ties with Graham in 2006, and more will follow suit now that he stands at the mercy of the court to decide on his fate.

Graham issued a statement in the second week of August 2006 reporting through his attorneys that he had been administered a polygraph test by a “nationally respected polygraph examiner” which proved Graham had not been involved in providing his athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, according to The New York Times.[1] He also refuted the Grand Jury testimony made by Heredia, who stated he had provided Graham with steroids, EPO and human growth hormones.

Marion Jones, however, who stated she had also passed polygraph tests in the past which were purported to have been administered to have demonstrated innocence or guilt in drugs matters, was found to be a fraud – despite the purported success with the test.

Graham was under the gun after the 2004 USA Olympic Trials, with speculation surrounding the BALCO affair stirring about.

In what should have been saved for a Marion Jones solicitor’s response, Graham’s attorneys stated in a telephone interview 2004-July-12 with The New York Times that “the success that Trevor's runners had this past weekend only confirms that he has not been involved in anything improper or illegal.”

Really, folks - one of these comprehensive, all-encompassing sweeps... one which Collins seemed to have turned the cards on: “I did know it was wrong,” she said. “I was encouraged by my coach to do that, but I knew it was wrong. I had a mindset where I really did believe that was the only way I was going to make it. I was told all my other competitors were doing it. I thought it was my only ticket.”[2]

Collins’s admission of guilt above coincides with an e-mail exchange she had with Conte whereby she permitted clear and concise language to evidence her use of performance-enhancing drugs. She did not state, however, who the secondary source of supply was in this e-mail confiscated by the IRS investigators.

Collins switched coaches to George Williams, the USA Men’s Coach for the 2004 Olympics, following her time with Trevor Graham. Williams was also the head men's track coach at the 1999 IAAF World Championships in Seville, Spain, and was an assistant coach at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Graham faced an insurmountable battle to prove his innocence to a degree sufficient to the members of the jury hearing his case – having decided on taking his case through to fruition. Michelle Collins was re-instated to the sport by the IAAF on 2008-May-14, with USADA’s CEO, Travis Tygart, stating in a telephone interview with Sports Illustrated that, “We are pleased that the IAAF gave full consideration to her case and in our mind made an appropriate decision, based on her willingness to provide truthful cooperation and assistance.”[3]

Whether Graham turns left or right, attempts to dodge or dislodge, he has sullied the sport beyond common recognition – one to a point whereby everyone who has ever stepped foot to train in Raleigh, North Carolina, will automatically have now been assumed to have been on a drugs programme and have been a cheat.

Memo Can Get You Anything You Need.

In this court drama for the track ages, one which Graham stated would call into question much which occurred behind closed doors by athletes long removed from the sport, the question was could Graham step forward and tell the “truth” to a degree acceptable to the court, or would he continue to deny the claims other people have made against him – athletes who have had their careers ruined by poor choices involving drug use they maintain was governed by Graham?

The United States had determined to bring seven elite athletes to testify against Graham, people including Antonio Pettigrew and Dennis Mitchell, who each will claim that Graham had full knowledge of their drug use.

Pettigrew, who had been identified as a previous performance-enhancing drug user, testified that he “obtained and used illegal and banned performance-enhancing drugs from Heredia with the defendant's knowledge,” according to court records.

Graham, like Marion Jones, has now lost out on the opportunity to be associated with athletics for the rest of his natural life. Whether he wanted to save any remaining face and admit to his wrongdoing remained to be seen, and, thus far, the air is stifling black. Nothing leading up to this trial would indicate that Graham would act in a manner and fashion unlike his previous one of tip-toeing between the line of good and the one which could have landed him in a jail cell for a specific period of time - which left him completely unpredictable when he was to stand in the line of fire before the court.

Graham never did take that stand. Or the Fifth. In fact, his defence team pulled the plug conspicuously early in the game.

Why did Graham participate in such illegal endeavours which were highly volatile to the flock of athletes under his watch?

The blame isn’t to be put specifically on Graham, per se, as athletes who had decided at one point in time to better themselves through the aid of drugs illegal and undetectable to the testing procedures meant to combat such efforts – and thwart any such attempts – made conscious efforts to take the pain with the gain, and to suffer the consequences thereof.

However, Graham wanted to be last man standing in this war between sprint camps and associates to those, and he’s gotten his wish: he stayed out of federal prison and turned the pages on Conte's associates and shut Conte down.

The Trial against Graham began at 09.30 on Monday, 2008-May-19 in the U.S. District Court, Northern California District, with Susan Illston presiding. It was to last seven days over two weeks, with a break on Friday, 2008-May-22 followed by a holiday on Monday, 2008-May-26.

Jury selection took four hours to dwindle down 70 potential persons down to nine women and five men who would ultimately have Graham’s fate in their hands. At odds were Graham’s claims of innocence and the U.S. government’s insistence that Graham lied about the following items when he was twice interviewed and provided immunity in exchange for truthful testimony:

Graham was interviewed regarding the extent and scope of his involvement with BALCO; Graham’s knowledge of specific athletes’ involvement with BALCO; Graham’s knowledge of whether specific athletes linked to BALCO used performance-enhancing drugs; and Graham’s relationship to Angel Heredia, who was known to the Grand Jury, who had provided Graham’s athletes – some of whom were associated with BALCO – with performance-enhancing drugs.

The government claimed that the information provided by Graham was of utmost importance to their investigation insofar as the witness statements pertained to the identification of individuals involved in the distribution, possession and use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in and through BALCO.

The government based its indictment on Heredia’s testimony, namely that Heredia met Graham for the first time in approximately 1996 or 1997; that, following that meeting, Graham referred numerous athletes coached by Graham to Heredia to obtain illegal, performance-enhancing drugs from Heredia; that, thereafter, Graham and Heredia maintained a business relationship and had both personal contact and had spoken on the telephone for years following that initial meeting; and, finally, that Heredia provided Graham’s athletes – some of whom were associated with BALCO – and Graham, himself, performance-enhancing drugs between the initial meeting sometime in 1996 and the date of Graham’s interview.

Graham was charged with three counts of making false statements to the government, those being:

That on or about 2004-June-8, Graham, in a matter concerning the criminal investigation of BALCO, stated he had never set up any of his athletes with drugs obtained by Heredia, when, in fact, he knew he obtained performance-enhancing drugs from Heredia and thereafter provided them to his athletes or referred athletes he was coaching – some of whom had ties to BALCO – directly to Heredia to obtain performance-enhancing drugs.

Also on or about 2004-June-8, Graham, stated he had never met Heredia in person, when, in fact, according to the indictment, he had met Heredia in person prior to the interview.

And, finally, the third count against Graham was initiated and based on Graham stating to the IRS investigators during the same interview that Graham last contacted Heredia via a phone call in approximately 1997, when, in fact, according to the indictment, Graham knew that he had numerous contacts with Heredia between 1997 and the interview on or about 2004-June-8.

These charges are all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001(a)(2), which reads:




Section 1001: Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully-

(1) Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) Makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

William Keane, Graham’s defence attorney, stated during the first day’s proceedings that the discrepancy found between Graham’s statements against certain items collected and named as fact by the prosecution was that the IRS told Graham they wanted to question him about BALCO and Victor Conte when they requested the interview four years ago. They maintain that the Heredia queries were made at the end of the interview, and Graham, who hadn’t seen it coming, did not have command of specific dates and facts when he “misspoke” to Novitzky.

During the second day’s proceedings, Agent Novitzky stated that the interview with Graham lasted more than three hours, and the questioning – according to The New York Times, reporting on the case – lasted “only a few minutes”, according to Novitzky, because Graham had been “absolute” in his denials about his connection to Heredia.

Nonetheless, Keane stated on the day’s opening proceedings that neither of the misstatements Graham made was a willfully or knowingly false statement germane to the investigation, although the prosecutors maintained that Graham’s misstatements side-tracked among other things their perjury investigation of Marion Jones.

Also at issue on the first-day’s proceedings was the “misstatement” Graham made regarding not having had contact with Heredia since 1997.

Prosecutors stated they had evidence that there were more than 100 records of phone calls between Graham’s telephone and Heredia’s between 1996-2000, or three years after Graham stated he had last had contact with Heredia. Keane told the court that Graham had been in touch with various coaches or athletes who stayed at Heredia’s house in Laredo, but had not had contact with Heredia himself.

FDA Agent Novitzky took the stand during the afternoon session following lunch on the second day of the trial, and reported to the jury his methodology in locating evidences linking Graham to BALCO as well as the evidences which were secured in the forms of Federal Express labels from Conte to Graham, and from “Vince Reed” to Graham – a code name for a package containing illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.

Insofar as Graham was not on trial for drug trafficking or distribution, Judge Susan Illston reminded the jury that much of the BALCO information was hearsay, and should only be used to help guide a jurist in making a connection to Graham.



[1] The New York Times, Graham Says a Polygraph Proves He Was Not Doping”, 2006-08-08 [2] Canadian Press, “Doping days now behind her, sprinter Michelle Collins…,” 2007-05-20 [3] Sports Illustrated, “Collins reinstated by IAAF after 3-year suspension”, 2008-05-14

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