Under normal circumstances Lisa Barber's surprise win in the 100 meters at the nationals would make a sweet story. Barber (right), 24, was seldom healthy enough to effectively run the 100 or 200 at South Carolina. ("Hamstrings," she says. "Every year.") But last fall she changed coaches and suddenly found herself. From a personal best of 11.35 seconds three years ago, she has improved to 11.05 this spring, and she easily won the national title over runner-up Muna Lee and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Lauryn Williams.
The circumstances, however, are not normal. Barber's new coach is the controversial Trevor Graham, who initiated the BALCO scandal by sending a THG-laced syringe to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2003. At least five Graham-coached athletes have been suspended for drug violations, and others, including Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, have been implicated in the scandal.
Working with Graham subjects any athlete to increased public suspicion. Barber says people in the sport warned her that Graham's reputation would affect hers. "I heard that a lot," she says. "I haven't done any drugs. And I know what I won't do. I told Trevor, 'Despite everything, I'm coming to work hard.' That's all he wants."