SAN FRANCISCO – Three years ago, track coach Trevor Graham anonymously mailed a vial of a designer steroid to anti-doping authorities, sparking a sweeping federal probe of performance-enhancing drug use by elite athletes.
Now, it looks as if Graham will be indicted for obstructing that same investigation.
Graham was set to be charged as early as Thursday with making false statements to authorities, two Justice Department officials with knowledge of the probe told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been made public.
Justin Gatlin, who tested positive for testosterone and other steroids in April, is a member of Raleigh, N.C.-based Sprint Capitol USA, a team of about 10 athletes that Graham operates. The coach also trained Marion Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games with him; and her former boyfriend Tim Montgomery, who was suspended from competition for two years, although he never tested positive for a banned substance.
In August, Nike terminated its contract with the coach, and the U.S. Olympic Committee banned Graham from its training centers. He's the first coach to receive such a penalty, "based on the unusual number of athletes he has coached who have been convicted of doping offenses," USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said in a conference call at the time.
"We have not been advised of an indictment, nor would we, as this is a legal matter," USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said Wednesday. "That said, we've made our position very clear, and Mr. Graham is not welcome at any U.S. Olympic training facility."
Graham helped bring about the federal investigation three years ago by anonymously mailing a vial to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that contained a sample of "the clear," a previously undetectable steroid. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Graham acknowledged mailing the drug, saying: "I was just a coach doing the right thing at the time."
Graham did not say why he turned in the syringe or how he got the material.
Neither Graham nor his Raleigh-based attorney Joseph Zeszotarski returned telephone calls and e-mail inquiries from the AP. A man who answered the door at Graham's home in Raleigh and identified himself as Graham's son said the track coach would not comment about the pending charges.
Graham steadfastly has denied ever providing banned performance-enhancing drugs to his athletes.
Jill Geer, a spokeswoman for USA Track & Field, the sport's national governing body, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Last Thursday, Zeszotarski confirmed that Randall Evans, the top assistant to Graham, testified to the federal grand jury investigating BALCO and its distribution of performance-enhancing drugs. But Evans did not provide any incriminating testimony against Graham, the attorney said in a recent statement given to The Associated Press.
"Randall Evans agreed to speak with us about his appearance at the grand jury," Zeszotarski said. "Based upon our interview of him, it is clear that Mr. Evans did not testify 'against' Trevor."
Zeszotarski said Evans "told the grand jury that he knows nothing about Trevor being involved in the distribution of illicit substances."
One person familiar with the investigation told the AP that Graham would not face distribution charges. Instead, the track coach is expected to be charged with obstruction of justice in connection with statements he gave to investigators in 2004.
The grand jury that is expected to charge Graham is the same panel investigating baseball slugger Barry Bonds for tax evasion and perjury related to his testimony about not knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds testified that his personal trainer told him he was ingesting flax seed oil and arthritis balm when he really was being given steroids dubbed "the clear" and "the cream."
Five men connected to BALCO pleaded guilty to steroid distribution and other charges.