On March 10 three years ago Angel Heredia was feeling at one with the world as he returned to his room on the campus of Texas A&M University in the small south Texas town of Kingsville. He had been for a workout and didnï¿½??t think twice about the two campus police officers standing not far from the entrance to his room. Maybe a break-in, he thought.
Chatting briefly with the officers, he walked on to his room. Inside there were two men, neither of whom he had met before, but that didnï¿½??t matter. He knew them. The uncommonly tall white one with the bald head was Jeff Novitsky, an investigator with the criminal section of the Inland Revenue Service (IRS); his African-American colleague was Erwin Rogers. If you were involved in elite-level athletics in the US in 2005, chances were you knew these gentlemen.
ï¿½??Youï¿½??re Angel,ï¿½?? said Rogers. ï¿½??Youï¿½??re Erwin,ï¿½?? replied Heredia. The pleasantries soon passed. ï¿½??Whatï¿½??s your relationship with Trevor Graham?ï¿½?? asked Novitsky, in a manner that suggested he knew the answer and didnï¿½??t like it.
Heredia, or ï¿½??Memoï¿½?? as he was known in athletics, didnï¿½??t think much of Novitskyï¿½??s manner and told him he wouldnï¿½??t answer any questions until he had spoken to his lawyer. Novitsky said they had lots of evidence that linked him to the illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs; phone transcripts, copies of blood tests, wire transfers, incriminating faxes, witness statements. Knowing this didnï¿½??t make Heredia any more inclined to talk.
Rogers was more conciliatory and Herediaï¿½??s reticence wasnï¿½??t important. They would return with a subpoena and talking wouldnï¿½??t be a matter of choice. About a week later they came with the subpoena. Heredia had hired Armando Trevino, a lawyer based in his home town of Laredo, Texas, and was preparing for an appearance before a grand jury in San Francisco.
As a supplier of banned drugs and an advisor on how to use them, Heredia had been supremely successful. Twelve of his athletes had won a combined total of 26 Olympic medals and 21 world championship medals. But now he and his lawyer had to consider their next move. IT WAS the story you couldnï¿½??t have made up. As the 2003 track season got into full swing, Victor Conte and Trevor Graham didnï¿½??t seem to have much to complain about. Owner of the Bay Area Laboratory CoOperative (Balco) in San Francisco, Conte was working with some of the best athletes in a number of sports. His clients included the star of the Sydney Olympics, Marion Jones, and the 100m world record holder Tim Montgomery.
Graham was coach of his group of elite athletes at the Sprint Capitol club in North Carolina. He too had worked with Jones and Montgomery and had in his stable the man who would be crowned 100m champion at the Athens Games a year later, Justin Gatlin. However, Conte and Graham were far from happy: Graham believed Conteï¿½??s athletes were doping, just as Conte was convinced Grahamï¿½??s athletes were cheating. Each professed outrage at the behaviour of the other camp.
On June 5 that year, Graham mailed a syringe flecked with a steroid to a contact in the United States AntiDoping Agency (USADA) and said he believed the drug was being used by Conteï¿½??s athletes. He was right. The steroid was identified as a designer drug, created specifically for athletic use and until then, unnamed and undetectable. Authorities called the new steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG for short.
Two days after Grahamï¿½??s apparently responsible act of whistleblowing, Jeff Novitsky rifled through garbage belonging to Conteï¿½??s laboratory. As part of an IRS investigation into Balco, it was Novitskyï¿½??s job to sift through the trash and that evening, he made an extraordinary discovery.
On the same day that Graham had posted off the syringe to USADA, Conte had written a letter to USADA and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) accusing Graham of systematically doping his athletes and using a Mexican contact to supply the drugs. Given that the letter was in the garbage, it seemed Conte had written it, had second thoughts and not sent it.
Once Conteï¿½??s designer drug was identified and his laboratory raided by federal investigators, his game was up. As his client list included some of sportï¿½??s biggest names, the Balco scandal had catastrophic implications for the credibility of baseball and athletics.
Conte was sentenced to four months in prison and a further four months under house arrest. Another four individuals were convicted of wrongdoing. Most of the Balco athletes, including the British sprinter Dwain Chambers, tested positive for the steroid. Balcoï¿½??s highest profile athlete, Jones, was sent to prison for lying to investigators about her doping.
Though they may have been grateful to Graham for handing in that syringe, federal agents found reason to suspect the coach. They interviewed him on June 8, 2004. Grahamï¿½??s lawyer asked for immunity for his client and was assured that provided he told the truth, he would not be prosecuted.
Of particular interest was Grahamï¿½??s relationship with Angel ï¿½??Memoï¿½?? Heredia. Graham said he knew Heredia but had never met him in person and hadnï¿½??t spoken to him since 1997. As for the allegation that he had received banned performance-enhancing drugs from Heredia for use by his athletes, Graham categorically denied this. After that meeting with Graham in 2004, the Feds knew they had to track down Angel Heredia. FOLLOWING the first, fraught encounter between the agents and Heredia at his room on the campus at Texas A&M, relations between the Mexican and the investigators improved. Heredia never quite warmed to Novitsky but he liked Rogers and it didnï¿½??t take him long to realise he had to tell the truth. Soon, Novitsky and Rogers heard the story of Angel Herediaï¿½??s life in athletics.
He was born in Mexico City and raised in a nice neighbourhood. His dad was a chemical engineer who taught at schools and universities and worked for the government. His mum was the homemaker. Sport was what the boy loved and after doing well at football, boxing, swimming and running, he settled on the sport at which he excelled - discus throwing.
The technique came easily to him, the national titles followed and when he was sent to high school in Texas, he competed successfully against his peers in the US. One day at a track in Mexico City, he met Luis Delis, a Cuban discus thrower who won bronze at the Moscow Olympics and medals at two world championships.
Heredia was a teenager and they were talking about what it took to be a champion. Delis pointed his right hand at his left arm, stuck out his index and middle finger and then brought his thumb through as if pressing the plunger of a syringe. The kid didnï¿½??t want to believe that but he suspected it was true. His own career didnï¿½??t amount to much; for all his fine technique, Heredia didnï¿½??t have the size, and then there were the injuries. Along the way, he realised Delis was right. Performance-enhancing drugs were everywhere and because he had his fatherï¿½??s love for chemistry, perhaps, Heredia was drawn to the science of performance-enhancement.
What exactly did drugs do for an athlete? Which were the most effec-tive? How were they best used? What did you have to do to avoid failing a drug test? Heredia read books, spoke to those in the field and was soon advising a few athlete friends on questions of doping.
Heredia told the Feds about how he first came into contact with Graham. A friend of his, a pole vaulter, met the coach while studying at Raleigh in North Carolina. Graham wanted to know if there was someone in Mexico who might be able to get him certain drugs that would enhance the performances of his athletes.
ï¿½??This friend told me Trevor was interested in getting growth hormone, testosterone and winstrol. Trevor called me and we set up a meeting for him to come to Laredo. He came over the Christmas holiday in 1996 with Randall Evans and Alvis Whitted, two of his athletes at the time. They travelled by car, about a 20-hour drive, which surprised me, and they stayed for four or five days.ï¿½??
ï¿½??You sure you met Trevor Graham in person?ï¿½?? the agents asked. Of course he was. He showed them a photograph taken at the time in which he and Graham stood side-by-side. Following the visit, the two worked in tandem. Graham would send some of his athletes to Heredia, who would provide them with doping products and advise them on their use. Other athletes would remain under Grahamï¿½??s supervision and Heredia would send drugs for them to the coach.
It was work he enjoyed doing. He knew where the drugs could be safely bought, and a member of his extended family had a laboratory in Mexico where all the precompetition testing could be done. ï¿½??I was making money and able to stay involved in athletics and I liked the work.ï¿½??
He took his role seriously and saw himself as responsible for protecting the athletesï¿½?? health and making sure they didnï¿½??t fail a drugs test. ï¿½??If the athlete was coming to see me in Laredo, we would try to have enough time to load up, enough clearance time and enough time to get a lab test done to make sure they were clear before they left here.ï¿½??
In the late 90s, Heredia worked with Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Antonio Pettigrew, Jerome Young and many others. Most of his contact with Jones was through her then husband CJ Hunter. Heredia showed athletes how to inject themselves, how to use the small needles for the injection of growth hormone. He reminded them to take iron supplements when using EPO and warned them about nandrolone. ï¿½??Great anabolic,ï¿½?? he would say, ï¿½??terrible clearance time.ï¿½??
After the trials for the Sydney Olympics were completed, 16 of Grahamï¿½??s athletes had qualified for the Games, 12 of whom worked with Heredia. It was a high point from which they would soon fall.
ï¿½??In the lead-up to Sydney, Trevor and CJ spoke to me about Marion. They wanted her to have everything she needed but it had to be undetectable. No cheap stuff. They asked me if I could get a designer steroid but it was like three weeks before the Games. Time was very short. We kept it to the main stuff: growth hormone, insulin, EPO, IGF-1 [a growth hormone].ï¿½?? However, the dynamic within the group was changing. Hunter tested positive for nandrolone, a career-ending blow, and then Graham and Heredia fell out. ï¿½??I was left with $29,000 worth of drugs on my hands. My relationship with Trevor broke down because money-wise, there were a lot of problems. There was a lot of money owing to me.ï¿½??
The athletes continued to work with Heredia and in 2002, he claims a friend of his was approached by the coach John Smith. Would he be interested in working with two of Smithï¿½??s sprinters, Maurice Greene and Larry Wade? He says a meeting was set up and Heredia met Smith, Greene and Wade in Houston, Texas.
ï¿½??I found John Smith very professional. He knew what was going on and wanted me to work with the two athletes from his group that he most trusted. After winning in Sydney, Maurice had slipped a bit. Tim Montgomery was the new kid on the block. Maurice wanted to run fast, make a medal at the Athens Games and hold on to his adidas contract.ï¿½??
Heredia worked with Greene in 2003 and 2004. Theirs was a predominantly business relationship. ï¿½??We got on fine but it wasnï¿½??t a relationship based on friendship.ï¿½?? Heredia claims he would call Greene, talk to him about his test results, explain to him what he was getting and make sure he followed the protocols. ï¿½??He ran well in 2003 until he had problems with his knee. He followed the same protocols in 2004 and he did well to get the bronze medal in Athens.ï¿½??
Heredia had documentation showing a $10,000 wire transfer from an M Greene. When Greene was asked about this money, he said he had paid someone elseï¿½??s bill. He flatly denies using performance-enhancing drugs. Smith and Wade have not commented on the allegations. ï¿½??Obviously Maurice was caught by surprise,ï¿½?? says Heredia. ï¿½??You know, all of a sudden they call you and tell you your name is in the press linked to the main witness in the Fedsï¿½?? investigation.
ï¿½??So Maurice says he paid the $10,000 for someone else? A guy said to me, ï¿½??I want a friend like that.ï¿½?? But whoï¿½??s going to give you $32,000 just because you smile at him. Come on! It donï¿½??t work like that.ï¿½?? BY THE middle of 2004, the word was out that the Feds were eager to interview Heredia. Associates advised him to disappear into Mexico and lie low until the Feds moved on to their next case, but he had finally got round to doing his kinesiology degree and wasnï¿½??t walking out on that.
When the Feds showed up in Kingsville on that March afternoon in 2005, it seemed to Memo that they already knew his life story. He didnï¿½??t see the point in lying. His testimony, along with corroborating grand jury testimony from Montgomery and Hunter, led to the indictment of Trevor Graham on November 2, 2006, on three counts of making false statements to federal agents. Grahamï¿½??s trial begins in San Francisco in eight days. Memo is the prosecutionï¿½??s star witness.
Though he appreciates the investigators have done a good job, Heredia doesnï¿½??t see much changing in the sports world. ï¿½??At one time, between Victor Conte and me, you could say we had the whole of US track and field in our pocket. Conte was sent to jail, I donï¿½??t know what is going to happen to me but I could go to jail too. But I can tell you, nothing is going to stop. Athletes are still going to South Africa to train, theyï¿½??re still doping.ï¿½??
On his first visit to San Francisco for his grand jury appearance, Heredia met Jerome Young in the corridor outside the room where they each gave evidence. He was glad to see his former client. They shook hands. ï¿½??Hey man,ï¿½?? said Young, ï¿½??weï¿½??re f****d. And they got a whole lot of stuff on you.ï¿½?? The news didnï¿½??t bother Memo because he was going in there to tell them everything.
Still, there were misgivings. ï¿½??Even at the last moment, I felt I was betraying my oath, the underground oath among athletes. What hurt me was that, deep down, I didnï¿½??t want to put all this stuff on the table. I truly felt sad about it, but Trevor sent that syringe and in the end, I had no choice.ï¿½??
Athletes face new HGH test
BRITAINï¿½??S competitors for the Olympic Games in Beijing will be tested for human growth hormone (HGH), the previously undetectable drug used by thousands of athletes, including disgraced sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones, writes John Goodbody. When the new programme begins shortly, it will be the first time tests for the drug have been done in Britain. Competitors will not be warned they are being carried out.
Up to 100 members of Britain’s team will be targeted, especially those in the explosive and strength events such as athletics, cycling, swimming and weightlifting.
HGH originally had to be extracted from cadavers, hence its nickname ï¿½??Dead Manï¿½??s Drugï¿½??, but recently it has been extensively manufactured, particularly in China.
Russell Langley, the spokesman on drugs for UK Sport, said: ï¿½??We want to ensure that we have a ï¿½??cleanï¿½?? team representing Britain. We have not warned competitors that they may be tested for HGH, which is already a banned substance.ï¿½??
The coach, the dealer and the athlete
TREVOR GRAHAM Coach to two Olympic 100m champions, Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin
Jamaican-born Graham won a silver medal in the 400m relay at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He became a coach at Raleigh in North Carolina and in the late 1990s coached Jones, Tim Montgomery and other world-class athletes. On June 5, 2003, he mailed a used syringe, containing steroid residue, to Rich Wanninger, an employee with the United States AntiDoping Agency. In an earlier telephone call to Wanninger, Graham had said the drug was being used by some sprinters on the west coast of the United States and the athletesï¿½?? drug connection was Victor Conte, proprietor of Balco laboratory in San Francisco. The world of sport had its Watergate. A year passed before Graham publicly admitted he was the whistleblower. ï¿½??I was just a coach doing the right thing,ï¿½?? he said. ï¿½??No regretsï¿½??
ANGEL GUILLERMO HEREDIA. A former Mexican discus champion and the supplier of steroids to many Olympic and world champions
In grand jury testimonies by athletes in the Balco investigation, two witnesses talked about a Mexican contact who supplied drugs to athletes in a club created by Trevor Graham. The supplier was identiï¿½? ed only by his nickname ï¿½??Memoï¿½?? and, according to testimony, Graham worked with Memo to facilitate the doping of his athletes. In June 2004, Graham was questioned by Federal investigators about his relationship with Memo. He said he had never met Memo in person and had not spoken to him since 1997. Federal investigators spent two years tracking down Heredia who decided to cooperate with the Balco investigation. On November 2, 2006, Graham was indicted for making false statements. He goes on trial in San Francisco next week. The prosecutionï¿½??s chief witness is Heredia
MAURICE ï¿½??MOï¿½?? GREENE, pictured above. A three-time 100m world champion and gold medallist in the 100m at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney
In February, the 33-year-old Greene retired from competition. He had been the outstanding sprinter of his generation and had the medals to prove it. He had beeen winning medals since 1995 when he was second in the US championships. Though the event at which he excelled, the 100m, was tainted with doping, Greene had never tested positive and had not been implicated in any drug controversy. His reputation as a world-class sprinter was as clean as it could be in the current climate. At the time of his retirement, he was made an ambassador for the sport by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Two months later, on April 13, the New York Times newspaper published a story which said that Heredia, the chief government witness in the case against Graham, had named Greene as one of the athletes he supplied with performance-enhancing drugs. The report also alleged that Heredia had documents that proved he worked with Greene.