Crawford unafraid of ex-coach's sordid shadow
EUGENE, Ore. -- For about seven years, from 1997 through 2004, Trevor Graham was one of the most renowned track and field coaches in the country, the man who made Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Shawn Crawford into Olympic champions and Tim Montgomery into a world record-holder.
Now Jones, Gatlin and Montgomery are banned from the sport for doping, and Graham is one of the most disgraced coaches in history -- the result, ironically, of his providing anti-doping authorities the syringe containing the drug THG, which is at the heart of the Balco scandal.
Sunday at the Olympic trials, Crawford became the only one of Graham's former big-time stars to make the 2008 Olympic team, finishing second in the 200 meters.
Crawford became the 2004 Olympic champion in the 200 meters under Graham, convicted May 29 of one count of lying to federal agents in the Balco investigation. He split with Graham in November 2006, soon after the coach was indicted. His 200 results last year, when he listed a man named Stephen Hayes as his coach, were unimpressive, so he moved to Bobby Kersee, who also coaches women's 200 star Allyson Felix.
Crawford, 30, is neither reluctant to give Graham credit nor afraid his achievements are tarnished by past association with the sulfurous coach.
"I think Trevor played a big role in my life,'' Crawford said. "We went to practice every day and trained our butt off. So I owe that (2004) gold medal to him.
"That was really my first serious training regimen. From that point on, I approached track and field with a different attitude. I give my best every time I go to the track. I learned that from Trevor. Until I moved to Raleigh (N.C., Graham's base), I was just lollygagging through my track and field career. He taught me how to have discipline and how to have structure in my training.''
Gatlin said similar things too, stubbornly rejecting advice to part with Graham after the 2004 Olympics. That undoubtedly made people reluctant to believe Gatlin's claim that his April 22, 2006 positive test for testosterone owed to sabotage.
"Are you worried his (Graham's) reputation casts a shadow over you?" I asked Crawford Sunday.
"Am I worried? No, because I don't care about somebody's reputation,'' Crawford said. "He makes decisions for him, I make decisions for me. Whatever he did with anybody else, I'm not worried about it, because I know what I did. So I can't hold that against a person. People make mistakes. I didn't make those mistakes so I'm not worried about it.''
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Left to right, silver medalist Shawn Crawford, gold medalist Walter Dix and bronze medalist Wallace Spearmon after the men's 200-meter finals. Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images