History-Altering Decisions

#7

Trevor Graham Sends a Syringe to USADA

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Graham (right) and Marion Jones, 2000

Graham (right) and Marion Jones, 2000

In the summer of 2003, officials at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency were certain that doped-up stars had found a way to beat their drug tests. But they needed Trevor Graham to show them how. The Jamaican-born sprinting coach, best known for helping Marion Jones win five medals in the 2000 Olympic Games, called a USADA official from a meet one afternoon in June. “I saw Victor Conte out there, with his little black bag,” Graham said, mentioning the founder of BALCO, a soon-to-be-infamous sports nutrition center in California. In a move that would turn him into the “Sammy the Bull” Gravano of sports, an informant nonpareil, Graham then shipped a syringe containing a designer steroid known as THG to investigators. That allowed the United States Anti-Doping Agency to bust track superstars like Jones. But the real bombshell came when federal authorities followed up with a raid of BALCO’s offices, finding investigative threads that took them into other sports—most notably baseball. By the close of the decade, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, and many other members of baseball’s ruling class were tarred by suspected drug use. A baseball steroid scandal was probably inevitable, but Graham’s syringe broke it wide open. “Until then,” said one baseball official, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, “we had no idea how widespread [the drug use] was.” Now we know all too well.

Olney is a senior writer covering baseball for ESPN the Magazine. 

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