Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Investigator talks to Jones's coach about illegal drugs

AFP , NEW YORK

Trevor Graham, the former coach of American sprint star Marion Jones, has been interviewed by a leading investigator in the BALCO steroid scandal case, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Citing an unnamed person involved in the probe that has brought banned drug distribution charges against four men, the Times reported that Internal Revenue Service special agent Jeff Novitzky met with Graham in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The three-hour meeting took place last Tuesday, the same day Jones was sent a letter asking questions regarding her connection to BALCO. Graham was given limited immunity from prosecution in exchange for talking, the Times reported.

Federal authorities also met with C.J. Hunter, Jones's former husband, in quest of information about Jones, who has denied any wrongdoing and threatened to sue if anyone attempts to bar her from competing at the Athens Olympics.

"So long as everyone who is talking to the government tells the truth, this is good news as they will confirm what Marion has said all along -- that she has never, ever used performance-enhancing drugs," the Times was told by Rich Nichols, a lawyer representing Jones.

Graham was asked about Victor Conte, the BALCO founder who is among four men charged with distributing steroids and money laundering in the BALCO case. All have pleaded not guilty.

Likely a witness rather than a target, Graham could shed more light on Jones as the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) considers taking action against athletes for non-analytical positives, bans imposed based on gathered evidence rather than positive tests.

Joseph Zeszotarski, a lawyer representing Graham, told the Times that, "Trevor has done nothing wrong."

The Times reported that a file bearing Jones' name found by investigators at the BALCO labs included a notation on a calendar bearing Jones's initials with an April 8, 2001, marking that says "pack to Trevor" as well as what authorities say might be coded references to banned substances.

Jones's attorneys have questioned the veracity of the document and said it does not refer to her. Graham could support or counter that claim.

USADA has imposed a two-year ban on sprinter Kelli White based solely on evidence and documents and started proceedings that could lead to banishments of four other US athletics standouts with the Olympics just two months away.

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