Speed For Sale Elite sprinters hire him to fine-tune their strides. But with many clients facing drug suspensions, Trevor Graham has become coach of the year for all the wrong reasons

July 25, 2004

Trevor Graham sat impassively in a folding chair next to the
warmup track late last Saturday afternoon at the U.S. Olympic
Track and Field Trials in Sacramento. A few feet away the sprint
coach's prized proteges, Shawn Crawford and Justin Gatlin, sat
marinating in deep tubs of ice water, cooling themselves after
running two qualifying rounds of the 200 meters on a hard track
under an unforgiving sun. They should have made room for their
39-year-old coach, who had been feeling more heat than either of

The Olympic trials (page 78) were emblematic of the best and
worst in track and field, where the stopwatch never lies but
surely doesn't tell the whole truth. There were brilliant turns
by veterans and by fresh faces. But the trials never broke loose
from the drug scandals that are painfully cleansing track and
field, if they do not first destroy it. The BALCO investigation
hung in the air as six athletes facing suspension competed for
Olympic berths. (None of them made the team.) On three
consecutive days published reports named a different member of
L.A.'s HSI sprint club as having had positive drug tests. One of
them, trials 100-meter runner-up and reigning world champ Torri
Edwards, admitted to having inadvertently taken a banned
stimulant and faced a hearing on Monday. Rumors of other
positives surfaced daily, and every performance was analyzed in
pharmaceutical terms.

Nobody lives closer to this intersection of performance and
suspicion than the preternaturally mellow Graham. He came to
prominence in 1997 after he bumped into Marion Jones and her now
ex-husband, C. J. Hunter, at the North Carolina State track. A
native of Jamaica who won a silver medal in the 4¥400-meter relay
for his country at the 1988 Olympics, Graham had been driving
around Raleigh with track coaching manuals in his car, dreaming
of finding great runners to mentor. Oh, my God, Marion Jones,
Graham once recalled thinking as he watched her run.

"Mind if I fix something?" Graham asked Hunter that morning. He
suggested some small fixes to Jones's form; they seemed to help,
and he was hired on the spot.

For the next five years Graham coached the best all-around
women's track athlete on the planet. He circled the globe in
first class, scored a shoe contract of his own and built a stable
of sprinters. In 2002, however, Jones and her new boyfriend,
sprinter Tim Montgomery, suddenly left Graham.

He came to Sacramento having been placed by published reports at
the vortex of the BALCO investigation. The San Jose Mercury News
wrote in July that Graham--spurred by a feud with BALCO founder
Victor Conte over money Conte claimed he was owed by
Montgomery--was the mystery whistle-blower who turned in a
syringe containing the steroid THG to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
in June 2003, triggering the scandal. Since '99 five
Graham-coached athletes have tested positive for banned
substances. In addition, four of the BALCO six in Sacramento had
been coached by Graham. When approached by reporters, he said,
"No BALCO questions." He has denied giving banned substances to
his athletes.

On the first weekend of the trials, the Graham-coached LaTasha
Colander won the 100 meters, and in the men's 100 Gatlin and
Crawford went two-three behind Maurice Greene. On Sunday in the
200 final Crawford won in 19.99 seconds, with Gatlin close
behind. The crowd roared but couldn't drown out the whisperers,
who see speed as suspicious. "When you run fast, that's what they
do," said Graham--a coach in a simple sport (fastest person wins)
that has never been more complicated.

--Tim Layden


"Bobby Fischer had been on the lam since 1992." --FOR THE RECORD,

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