I wish I could say I'm proud of USA Track and Field for the statement they issued yesterday regarding the lifetime ban of track coach Trevor Graham, whose athletes were caught up in doping scandals galore (including Marion Jones). But honestly, it feels like too little, too late. It was obvious to track insiders for a long time that corrupt coaches were the power players on the doping scene - not only in this country but others. (China, at least on paper, bans its coaches for life if just two of an athlete's coaches test positive for doping - though I've heard from track insiders on that side of the pond that those bans are not uniformly enforced.)
But in the U.S., where track is one of our major Olympic sports, more should have been done, much sooner, to scan the sport for coaches who were enticing athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs. I'm still haunted by an interview with one athlete whose coach was like a father figure (the athlete's words) - and who steered the athlete right into BALCO's path, then denied any knowledge of what BALCO was doing when the athlete wound up testing positive at a major event. Sad stuff.
Anyway, here's the statement that was issued by action USATF president Bill Roe yesterday about the lifetime ban of Trevor Graham by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency:
"USA Track & Field applauds USADA for issuing a lifetime ban against Trevor Graham. Through his involvement in fostering the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Mr. Graham jeopardized the health of his athletes, to say nothing of their integrity and their future ability to compete in the sport. Athletes rarely act alone when they make the ill-advised decision to dope, and anyone involved in advocating or enabling the use of PEDs should be punished just as severely as an athlete who uses them. USA Track & Field has long advocated lifetime bans for first-time doping convictions, and today's action sends a powerful message to athlete support personnel that they will be held accountable for their actions."
On a far more positive note, USATF this week officially named the team that will be going to the Beijing Olympics - including a surprise entry: Breaux Greer, the eight-time U.S. javelin champion who didn't qualify for the final at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. Greer was able to be added because an injury impaired his performance at the Trials and because his selection to the team would not displace another athlete (in other words, the U.S. doesn't have three other jav throwers with the Olympic "A" standard, so Greer could take a spot). The same couldn't be said of Tyson Gay in the 200, who got injured during the Trials, because all three roster spots for the Olympics in the 200 could be filled with finishers at the Trials who had the "A" standard. Slightly confusing stuff...but good to see Greer, one of the great longtime track athletes in the U.S., headed to Beijing.