The Olympic Dealer [interview with Ángel Heredia]

 

 

By Der Spiegel

 

11.08.2008

 

Angel Heredia, once a doping dealer and now a chief witness for the U.S. Justice Department, talks about the powerlessness of the investigators, the motives of athletes who cheat and the drugs of the future.

 

He had been in hiding under an assumed name in a hotel in Laredo, Texas, for two years when the FBI finally caught up with him. The agents wanted to know from Angel Heredia if he knew a coach by the name of Trevor Graham, whether he carried the nickname “Memo”, and what he knew about doping. "No", "no", "nothing" – those were his replies. But then the agents laid the transcripts of 160 wiretapped telephone conversations on the table, as well as the e-mails and the bank statements. That’s when Angel "Memo" Heredia knew that he had lost. He decided to cooperate, and he also knew that he would only have a chance if he didn’t lie – not a single time. “He’s telling the truth,” the investigators say about Heredia today.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Heredia, will you watch the 100 meter final in Beijing?

Heredia: Of course. But the winner will not be clean. Not even any of the contestants will be clean.

SPIEGEL: Of eight runners ...

Heredia: ... eight will be doped.

SPIEGEL: There is no way to prove that.

Heredia: There is no doubt about it. The difference between 10.0 and 9.7 seconds is the drugs.

 

SPIEGEL: Can drugs make anyone into a world record holder?

 

Heredia: No, that is a misapprehension: “You take a couple of tablets today and tomorrow you can really fly.” In reality you have to train inconceivably hard, be very talented and have a perfect team of trainers and support staff. And then it is the best drugs that make the difference. It is all a great composition, a symphony. Everything is linked together, do you understand? And drugs have a long-term effect: they ensure that you can recover, that you avoid the catabolic phases. Volleyball on the beach might be healthy, but peak athletics is not healthy. You destroy your body. Marion Jones, for example ...

SPIEGEL: ... five-time Olympic medallist at Sydney 2000 ... 

Heredia: ... trained with an unparalleled intensity. Drugs protect you from injury. And she triumphed and picked up all the medals.

SPIEGEL: Are you proud?

Heredia: Of course, I still am. It is still a tremendous achievement, and you must not believe that Marion’s rivals were poor, deceived competitors.

SPIEGEL: This isn’t just an American problem?

Heredia: Are you kidding me? No. All countries, all federations, all top athletes are affected, and among those responsible are the big shoe companies like Nike and Adidas. I know athletes who broke records; a year later they were injured and they got the call: “We’re cutting your sponsorship money by 50 percent.” What do you think such athletes then do?

SPIEGEL: Tell us what you did for your clients.

Heredia: Athletes hear rumors and they become worried. That the competition has other tricks, that they might get caught when they travel. There is no room for mistakes. One mistake can ruin a career.

SPIEGEL: So you became a therapist for the athletes in matters of drugs?

Heredia: More like a coach. Together we found out what was good for which body and what the decomposition times were. I designed schedules for cocktails and regimens that depended on the money the athletes offered me. Street drugs for little money, designer drugs for tens of thousands. Usually I sent the drugs by mail, but sometimes the athletes came to me. 

SPIEGEL: With Marion Jones ...

Heredia: ... it was about the recovery phases. In 2000 she competed in one event after another, and she needed to relax. I gave her epo, growth hormone, adrenaline injections, insulin. Insulin helps after training, together with protein drinks: insulin transports protein and minerals more quickly through the cell membrane. 

SPIEGEL: Jones was afraid of needles.

Heredia: Yes, that’s why C. J. Hunter, her husband at the time, and her trainer Trevor Graham mixed her three substances in one injection. I advised them against it because I thought it was risky. 

SPIEGEL: What kind of relationship did you have with your athletes?

Heredia: Business ties. It was all about levels and dosing. I rarely spoke with Marion. It was done through her coaches.

Part II: How Heredia outwitted the drug testers and became the dealer to the world’s best athletes.

SPIEGEL: Was there a doping cycle?

Heredia: Yes. When the season ended in October, we waited for a couple of weeks for the body to cleanse itself. Then in November, we loaded growth hormone and epo, and twice a week we examined the body to make sure that no lumps were forming in the blood. Then we gave testosterone shots. This first program lasted eight to ten weeks, then we took a break.

SPIEGEL: And then the goals for the season were established?

Heredia: Yes, that depended on the athlete. Some wanted to run a good time in April to win contracts for the tournaments. Others focused on nothing but the trials, the U.S. qualification for international championships. Others cared only about the Olympics. Then we set the countdown for the goal in question, and the next cycle began. I had to know my athletes well and have an overview of what federation tested with which methods.

SPIEGEL: Where does one get this information?

Heredia: Vigilance. Informers.

SPIEGEL: You were once a good discus thrower yourself.

Heredia: Very good in Mexico, but very average by international standards. I had played soccer, boxed and done karate before I ended up in track and field. At 13 or 14 I believed in clean sports. Doping was a crime to me; back then I even asked my father if I could take aspirin. 

SPIEGEL: Why did you begin doping?

 

Heredia: Like all athletes: because others were doing it. All of a sudden, kids that I used to beat were throwing ten meters further. Then I had an injury but I wanted to qualify for the Olympic team anyway. Doping became to me what it is for most athletes: part of the sport. If you train for 12 hours today and your trainer expects you to train for 12 hours again tomorrow, you dope. Otherwise you can’t do it.

SPIEGEL: What did you take?

Heredia: Growth hormone. Testosterone.

SPIEGEL: But you failed to qualify for the Olympics anyway.

Heredia: Yes, but I read anything I could find about medicine, spoke with other athletes, and soon people were saying: Angel knows how it’s done. He knows how to pass the tests. The first athletes began to ask me for advice. That’s how it started, and at some point the trainer Trevor Graham asked me if I could help him. I explained to him how epo works, and I was in business.

SPIEGEL: What qualified you for the role of dealer to the world’s best athletes?

Heredia: My father is a chemistry professor. I love chemistry, and I was an athlete. My role was an obsession. For example, I learned everything about testosterone: that there is a type of testosterone with a high half-life and another that works very quickly. I learned that you can rub it in, take it orally, inject it. It became a kick: I was allowed to work with the best of the best, and I made them even better.

SPIEGEL: And how did you become the best in your world?

Heredia: With precision. You want an example? Everyone talks about epo. Epo is fashionable. But without adding iron, epo only works half as well. That’s the kind of thing you have to know. There are oxygen carriers that make epo work incredibly fast – they are actually better than epo alone. I call my drug “Epo Boost.” I inject it and it releases many tiny oxygen molecules throughout the body. In that way you increase the effect of epo by a factor of ten.

SPIEGEL: Do you have any other secrets?

Heredia: Oh yes, of course. There are tablets for the kidneys that block the metabolites of steroids, so when athletes give a urine sample, they don’t excrete the metabolites and thus test negative. Or there is an enzyme that slowly consumes proteins - epo has protein structures, and the enzyme thus ensures that the B sample of the doping test has a completely different value than the A sample. Then there are chemicals that you take a couple of hours before the race that prevent acidification in the muscles. Together with epo they are an absolute miracle. I’ve created 20 different drugs that are still undetectable for the doping testers. 

SPIEGEL: What trainers have you worked together with?

Heredia: Particularly with Trevor Graham. 

SPIEGEL: Graham has a lifetime ban because he purportedly helped Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Justin Gatlin and many others to cheat. Who else?

Heredia: With Winthrop Graham, his cousin. With John Smith, Maurice Greene’s coach. With Raymond Stewart, the Jamaican. With Dennis Mitchell ...

SPIEGEL: ... who won gold in the 4 x 100 meters in 1992 and today is a coach. How did the collaboration work?

Heredia: It’s a small world. It gets around who can provide you with something how quickly and at what price, who is discreet. The coaches approached me and asked if I could help them, and I said: yes. Then they gave me money, $15,000 or thereabouts, we got a first shipment and then we did business. At some point it led to one-on-one cooperation with the athletes. 

SPIEGEL: Was there a regimen of sorts?

Heredia: Yes. I always combined several things. For example, I had one substance called actovison that increased blood circulation – not detectable. That was good from a health standpoint and even better from a competitive standpoint. Then we had the growth factors IGF-1 and IGF-2. And epo. Epo increases the number of red blood cells and thus the transportation of oxygen, which is the key for every athlete: the athlete wants to recover quickly, keep the load at a constantly high level and achieve a constant performance.

SPIEGEL: Once again: a constant performance at the world-class level is unthinkable without doping?

Heredia: Correct. 400 meters in 44 seconds? Unthinkable. 71 meters with a discus? No way. You might be able to run 100 meters in 9.8 seconds once with a tailwind. But ten times a year under 10 seconds, in the rain or heat? Only with doping.

 

Part III: “If he maintains he is clean, I can only answer that that is a lie.”

 

SPIEGEL: Testosterone, growth hormone, epo – that was your combination?

Heredia: Yes, with individual variations. And then amazing things are possible. In 2002 Jerome Young was ranked number 38 in the 400 meters. Then we began to work together, and in 2003 he won almost every big race.

SPIEGEL: How were you paid?

Heredia: I had an annual wage. For big wins I got a $40,000 bonus.

SPIEGEL: Your athletes have won 26 Olympic medals. How much money did you earn?

Heredia: I can’t answer that due to the investigations. But let’s put it this way: 16 to 18 successful athletes each year at between $15,000 and $20,000 per athlete. I had a good run. I had a good life.

SPIEGEL: Did you live in the shadows of the sports world, where no one was allowed to see you?

Heredia: No. I rarely traveled to the big events, but that was because of jealousy: the Americans didn’t want me to work with the Jamaicans and vice versa. But shadows? No. It was one big chain, from athletes to agents to sponsors, and I was part of it. But everyone knew how the game worked. Everyone wanted it to be this way, because everyone got rich off it.

SPIEGEL: Which agents do you mean?

Heredia: The big marketers – Robert Wagner, for example – who support the athletes and want to get them into top form because they place the athletes at the track meetings.

 

The Austrian marketer Wagner, founder of World Athletics Management, wrote last Thursday in an e-mail to SPIEGEL, that he “never doped athletes” or “supported and promoted” doping. And Angel Heredia, the chief witness, sat in an office in New York, an athletic man in a black shirt, still in excellent shape, and wrote down names on a sheet of paper. 41 track and field athletes, he said, were his clients, as well as boxers, soccer players and cross-country skiers. His Jamaicans: Raymond Stewart, Beverly McDonald, Brandon Simpson. From the Bahamas: Chandra Sturrup. A couple of his Americans: Jerome Young, Antonio Pettigrew, Tim Montgomery, Duane Ross, Michelle Collins, Marion Jones, C. J. Hunter, Ramon Clay, Dennis Mitchell, Joshua J. Johnson, Randall Evans, Justin Gatlin, Maurice Greene. Some of those named by Heredia have been caught doping. Others have admitted to doping, while still others deny it.

SPIEGEL: Maurice Greene? The 100 meter superstar Greene is one of the poster athletes of the Olympic movement; he swears he is clean.

Heredia: The investigations are ongoing, but if he maintains he is clean, I can only answer that that is a lie.

SPIEGEL: Can you be more specific?

Heredia: I helped him. I made a schedule for him. I equipped him.

SPIEGEL: Equipped?

Heredia: Yes, we worked together in 2003 and 2004.

SPIEGEL: Do you have receipts?

Heredia: Yes, I have a $10,000 bank transfer receipt, for example.

SPIEGEL: Greene says he spent that money on friends.

Heredia: I know that’s not true.

SPIEGEL: What did Greene, who denies having doped, get from you?

Heredia: IGF-1 and IGF-2, epo and ATP – that stands for adenosine triphosphate, which intensifies muscle contraction.

SPIEGEL: Undetectable for testers?

Heredia: Undetectable. We’ve used ointments that do not leave any traces and that enable a consistently high testosterone level in athletes.

SPIEGEL: Is there doping at every level of athletics?

Heredia: Yes, the only difference is the quality of the doping. Athletes with little money use simple steroids and hope they don’t get tested. The stars earn 50,000 dollars a month, not including starting bonuses and shoe sponsorship contracts. The very best invest 100,000 dollars – I’ll then build you a designer drug that can’t be detected.

SPIEGEL: Explain how this works.

Heredia: Designer drugs are composed of several different chemicals that trigger the desired reaction. At the end of the chain I change one or two molecules in such a way that the entire structure is undetectable for the doping testers.

SPIEGEL: The drug testers’ hunt of athletes ...

Heredia: ... is also a sport. A competition. Pure adrenaline. We have to be one or two years ahead of them. We have to know which drug is entering research where, which animals it is being used in, and where we can get it. And we have to be familiar with the testers’ methods.

SPIEGEL: Can the testers win this race?

Heredia: Theoretically yes. If all federations and sponsors and managers and athletes and trainers were all in agreement, if they were to invest all the money that the sport generates and if every athlete were to be tested twice a week – but only then. What’s happening now is laughable. It’s a token. They should save their money – or give it to me. I’ll give it to the orphans of Mexico! There will be doping for as long as there is commercial sports, performance-related shoe contracts and television contracts.

 

4. Teil: “Peak performances without doping are a fairytale.”

SPIEGEL: So the idea that sports are a fair competition within established rules actually died long ago?

Heredia: Yes, of course. Unless we were to go back to ancient times. Without television, without Adidas and Nike. It’s obvious: if you finish in 8th place at a big event, you get $5,000; if you finish first you get $100,000. Athletes think about this. Then they think that everyone else dopes anyway, and they are right. And you think athletes believe in morals and ideals? Peak performances without doping are a fairytale, my friend.

SPIEGEL: Do you advocate the authorization of doping?

Heredia: No, but I believe we should authorize the use of epo, IGF and testosterone, as well as adrenaline and epitestosterone – substances that the body produces itself. Simply for pragmatic reasons, because it is impossible to detect them, and also because of the fairness aspect.

SPIEGEL: Are you serious: fairness?

Heredia: Yes. Take for example the most popular drug: epo. Epo changes the hemoglobin value, and it is simply the case that people have different hemoglobin levels. Authorizing the use of epo would enable the fairness and equality that supposedly everyone wants. After all, there are genetic differences between athletes.

SPIEGEL: Differences between living things are called nature. You want to make all athletes the same through doping?

Heredia: Normal athletes have a level of 3 nanograms of testosterone per milliliter of blood; the sprinter Tim Montgomery has 3 nanograms, but Maurice Greene has 9 nanograms. So what can Tim do? It isn’t doping with endogenous substances that’s unfair, it is nature that’s unfair.

SPIEGEL: And what would you ban?

Heredia: Everything else that can be dangerous. Amphetamines? Ban them. Steroids? Ban them.

SPIEGEL: Are there still any clean disciplines?

Heredia: Track and field, swimming, cross-country skiing and cycling can no longer be saved. Golf? Not clean either. Soccer? Soccer players come to me and say they have to be able to run up and down the touchline without becoming tired, and they have to play every three days. Basketball players take fat burners – amphetamines, ephedrin. Baseball? Haha. Steroids in pre-season, amphetamines during the games. Even archers take downers so that their arm remains steady. Everyone dopes.

SPIEGEL: Did you produce the drugs yourself, or did you simply procure them?

Heredia: I didn’t have my own laboratory, I had… let’s say access to labs in Mexico City. I purchased and procured the raw materials ...

SPIEGEL: ... from where?

Heredia: Everywhere. Australia, South Africa, Austria, Bulgaria, China. I got growth hormone from the Swiss company Serono. It was never difficult to import it to Mexico, because the laws aren’t that strict. You can easily buy it in pharmacies in Mexico. Whenever a new drug was entering the test phase somewhere in the world, we knew about it and we ordered it. Then I combined substances. Sometimes I produced a gel.

SPIEGEL: Did you ever take the doping testers seriously?

Heredia: No, we laughed at them. Today, of course, it is the testers who are laughing.

SPIEGEL: How do you make a living today?

Heredia: I still have a little bit of money. I’m studying again. I want to become a pharmacist. That’s my dream, but I don’t know if I’ll find a job, if I will be charged, if I will be deported, or where I’ll go. I don’t have a life anymore. I walk around and make sure no one is following me. But compared to Jerome Young I’m doing okay.

SPIEGEL: What is the 2003 world champion doing today?

Heredia: He’s 31 years old, and he sits in a truck and delivers bread. People say he broke the laws of the sport, but that’s not true: it was exactly these rules that Jerome followed.

 

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,571031,00.html

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Comment by Greg Wilson on November 8, 2011 at 11:49am

"If they want to do whatever doping or drug testing that they want to do, Olympic-style, or whatever they want to do. I'll do it. I'm prepared. Just as long as (Pacquiao) does it, too."  - Juan Manuel Marquez.  

I what Heredia has said is true, it appears Team Marquez will try to beat Team Pacquiao at their own game.

Comment by Tony Ferreira on November 2, 2011 at 12:08am

Damn! All I can say is Damn! This guy Heredia (Hernandez on 24/7) being Marquez's strength and conditioning coach isn't a good look for Marquez. I have been pretty suspicious in way that Marquez has bulked up. On 24/7 he looked solid. I hate to say it but...

Comment by G N S on November 1, 2011 at 10:49pm
great stuff.
Comment by BoxingSocialist on November 1, 2011 at 10:06pm
Wow that was so indepth but Good ... great job on the post of this information.

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