Trevor Graham, the Jamaican-born track coach who touched off a major sports doping scandal by anonymously sending authorities a syringe, was indicted by a US grand jury on Thursday on three counts of making false statements related to steroid distribution.
Graham has coached some of the world's top sprinters, including Sydney Olympic triple champion Marion Jones, disgraced former 100 meters world record holder Tim Montgomery and 2004 100 meters Athens Olympic champion Justin Gatlin.
Graham, who competed for Jamaica in the 1988 Olympics, played a pivotal role in 2003 in unmasking a previously undetectable steroid by sending the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) a used syringe with small amounts of THG.
Thursday's indictment said Graham met with Internal Revenue Service agents in 2004 to discuss his and his athletes' involvement with the BALCO lab South of San Francisco that is at the center of the case and is alleged to be the main distribution outlet for the steroids.
Officials had given Graham immunity from prosecution for any crimes but not for making false statements.
"The charges allege that Graham intentionally lied to IRS-CI agents who were pursuing the original source of the illegal performance-enhancing drugs taken by many of the athletes tied to BALCO," U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said in a statement.
Graham is due to be arraigned on November 16 and could face as much a five years in prison for each count if found guilty.
The trainer is alleged to have lied by saying he never provided athletes with steroids from "Source A," whose identity was not revealed. The charges also allege he falsely said he had never met the source and wrongly said he last contacted the person in 1997.
"Today's indictment is an example of the progress that has been made in the fight against doping as a result of the continuing cooperation between USADA and the U.S. Attorney's Office," said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Terry Madden.
More than a half-dozen athletes Graham has coached have been suspended for doping or tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
The trainer's athletes linked to doping include Montgomery, who was banned for two years in 2005 for doping violations in conjunction with the BALCO scandal although he never tested positive, and current 100 meters co-world record holder Gatlin, who tested positive for testosterone in April.
FIVE ALREADY CONVICTED
Federal courts have also convicted five men, including Victor Conte, head of BALCO, and the personal trainer of baseball superstar Barry Bonds for their roles in distributing steroids.
Bonds, who has hit the second-most home runs in U.S. Major League Baseball history, remains under investigation over whether he lied when he told a federal grand jury he never knowingly used steroids.
After initial denials, Graham admitted at the 2004 Athens Olympics that he had sent the syringe. His motivation remains unclear, but he and BALCO head Conte dislike each other.
The founder of the Raleigh, North Carolina-based Sprint Capitol club, Graham no longer coaches Jones. The U.S. Olympic Committee banned Graham from using USOC facilities because many of his athletes have been linked to doping. Nike, the world's largest athletic shoe maker, also terminated its contract with him.
Graham, who lives in North Carolina, has steadfastly denied distributing steroids. In a statement, his lawyer Joseph Zeszotarski said Graham was not guilty and had not made any false statements.
"It is particularly troublesome that the government has chosen to take this course when it is Trevor who had the integrity and courage to turn in the sample that led to the BALCO investigation in the first place," he said.
(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina)