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Former elite coach Trevor Graham is banned for life from track and field, but he may have just coached an athlete to the 2016 Olympic 100m final. And even if our source is wrong about Graham coaching that particular athlete, it sure seems like he's trying to claw his way back into elite track and field--which he is totally banned from.
On his Facebook page, Graham posted a link to his GoFundMe account--in the description, he refers to his coaching career in the present tense, and says he has "been a track and field coach for over 28 years, beginning my career back in 1988." 1988 to 2016 is 28 years. He further states on his GoFundMe page that,
"In 2015 the politics continued and I was removed from a local school in my community in which I had voluntarily coached youth athletes for the previous eight years. The team gained much success over the years through conference, state, and national championship titles; in return sending numerous kids to universities all over the country."
Trying to get back in the game?Graham has been trying to revive his career since 2008, which is when USADA imposed a lifetime ban on him that was supported by USATF, WADA, and the IAAF. Hoisted by his own syringe, Graham kicked off the BALCO scandal in 2003 by anonymously sending a needle filled with "the clear" to USADA. He was eventually found to be doping his stable of athletes, including Justin Gatlin, Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones, which resulted in his lifetime ban "from coaching or participating in any capacity in any competition or activity authorized or organized by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Track & Field (USATF), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and/or any other signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code or any signatory's member organization."
Track and field has a pack of unofficial ombudsmen (to be fair, the official ombudsmen are kind of asleep at the wheel) who are happy to point out the possibility of doping at any turn:
Graham has possibly been coaching all along and using other coaches as front men or women https://t.co/OqT6S9DBU0— Victor Conte (@VictorConte) August 7, 2016
Conte, who is accusing Graham of skirting the ban, is one the central figures in sports doping history. He ran BALCO, the company that distributed steroids to Barry Bonds, Jones, and others before the federal government decided to prosecute drug use in sports. Conte now claims to be in favor of "clean sport."
yep yep. Heard from multiple people this occurs.— Steve Magness (@stevemagness) August 7, 2016
Magness is an anti-doping crusader, the head cross country coach at the University of Houston, and the primary source for ProPublica's 2014 investigation of the Nike Oregon Project.
it's like the worst kept secret in track— Pole Vault Power (@polevaultpower) August 7, 2016
Becca Gillespy Peter is a journalist and activist who runs Pole Vault Power and volunteered as a regional-level USATF official until 2016.
The sourceAlthough Conte and Graham have not yet responded to our inquiry, Magness and Peter said they heard secondhand about Graham continuing to coach. Most of those sources refused to comment on the record, but one was clear, credible, and insistent when he told FloTrack that Graham never stopped coaching.
I found this person credible, and am granting them anonymity for their own protection. The source said Graham coaches Ivory Coast sprinter Ben Youssef Meite, and that Meite told him so directly. Meite was Ivory Coast's flagbearer at the last two Olympics, and finished sixth in the 2016 Olympic 100m final.
Our source said Meite told him he's being coached by Graham, and that he's "not even sure whether athletes know that Graham is on the banned list, and that they're risking something by associating with him."
It also seems like Meite is based in or near Raleigh, North Carolina, where Graham has long been based and ran his Sprint Capitol USA group. Our source said Meite is based in Raleigh, and Meite often competes in Elon or Greensboro--an unusual thing for the sixth-fastest man on the planet to do.
Who else might Graham be coaching?Multiple sources also claimed and Conte intimated on Twitter that Graham coaches 60m world indoor champion Barbara Pierre and Barbados Olympian Ramon Gittens, who are also based in Raleigh. But our anonymous firsthand source also said Pierre and Gittens are truly coached by Patrick Jarrett, a former Jamaican sprinter who tested positive for anabolic steroids while coached by Graham in 2001.
The reason cited for why Jarrett is truly the coach of Pierre and Gittens instead of Graham was pretty believable: "Graham is mad at Jarrett for stealing his workouts to coach them."
Our source also claims other athletes told him they were being coached by Graham, including Congolose 400m runner Gary Kikaya and Bahamian sprinter Chandra Sturrup, who both retired in 2012. The most prominent one is Ruddy Zang Milama, who won the women's 100m at the 2012 African Championships.
Zang Milama tested positive for a minor banned substance in 2014, which led to a seven-month suspension. According to our source, she said she was coached by Graham from 2009 to 2014, and left Graham for Dennis Mitchell before testing positive for the stimulant oxilofrine in 2014, then returned to Graham after serving her ban. She competed for Gabon at the Rio Olympics, and was eliminated after the first round of the women's 100m.
The source doesn't blame the athletes (or Graham) for flouting the ban and said, "this should be taken seriously by anti-doping authorities instead PR spinning about retesting 28th place at the London Olympics, or trying to enact impossible Olympic bans for formerly banned athletes." This seems pretty closely aligned with reality; as late as 2015, the still-current president of WADA was emailing the head of Russian sports assuring him that WADA was not planning on pursuing them.
We were not able to get a second source to confirm firsthand that athletes were still being coached by Graham, though plenty of sources claimed to know "the worst-kept secret in track" secondhand. Whatever Graham's coaching status is (and if you know more, email us!), it seems like he's still trying to be involved with high-level track.
Filings with the North Carolina Secretary of State from November 2015 list Graham as the registered agent for a "National Track & Field League corporation," and Graham filed for a trademark on a logo for the National Track & Field League in July 2016. The league even has a General Manager opening you can apply for.
Graham obviously does not view himself as a cheater trying to worm himself back into the system. In 2011, he filed an unsuccessful $30 million slander lawsuit against USADA. And this summer, Graham went on a Facebook tirade proclaiming his innocence and accusing Angel Heredia, Maurice Greene, Mitchell, and legendary track coach John Smith of acquiring and peddling performance-enhancing drugs.
Further powering the rumor mill, unsubstantiated rumors were swirling around five years ago that Heredia--an admitted steroid dealer who helped the government take down Graham--was involved in training Usain Bolt. Heredia also tweeted this month that "Graham still coaches." But Heredia is a known drug dealer and liar who has gone by multiple first and last names.
Resurfacing rivalries?Graham's 2016 accusations against Smith and 2003's anonymous shipment of the syringe to USADA are linked by one thing: rivalries between sprint coaches. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Graham's and Smith's groups were the two dominant sprint enclaves in the world. Graham's was led by Montgomery and Jones, and Smith's was headlined by Greene and Ato Boldon. In 2008, BALCO founder Conte claimed Smith and Graham briefly buried the hatchet in 2003 to spite Conte because the PEDs Conte was giving British sprinter Dwain Chambers were helping the British sprinter beat Montgomery and Greene.
Meanwhile, whoever wrote the "Boldon letter" (so called because the athlete who wrote the letter to Smith closely fits Boldon's profile) to John Smith that surfaced in 2008 told Smith then that "You are an older Trevor Graham--PERIOD--on a different coast of the USA, and that isn't easy for me to say, because you know what I think about Trevor."
Smith still coaches English Gardner, who finished seventh in the women's 100m final at the Olympics. Boldon coaches several Trinidadian sprinters and announced the sprints at the Olympics for NBC, while Greene did Games analysis for Eurosport.
With Meite and Gardner making the Olympic finals, Gatlin being the second-most-famous sprinter on the planet, Graham still adamant of his innocence despite his lifetime ban, and Boldon and Greene presenting it all to us, the sprint world's hairy early-2000s past isn't dead. It isn't even past.