DOHA, Qatar >> Renowned track coach Alberto Salazar, who trained four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah, along with a gold medalist and other top contenders at this week’s world championships, has been kicked out of the competition after being handed a four-year ban in a case long pursued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
USADA said in a news release early today that an arbitration panel decided on the four-year penalty for Salazar and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone while training top runners at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP).
Brown did consulting work for the NOP and was a personal physician for some of the runners.
Among the seven runners listed as members of Salazar’s team are Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who won the 10,000-meter gold medal on Saturday night, and is entered to run later this week in the 1,500; and Donavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy of the U.S., each of whom are scheduled to run in the 800-meter final today.
The USADA ban went into effect Monday, and track’s governing body, the IAAF, moved quickly to revoke Salazar’s credential for the final six days in Doha. The Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees anti-doping in track, notified the NOP athletes that they could not associate with their coach because of his ban.
In a statement released by NOP, Salazar said he was shocked by the arbitration outcome, and that he would appeal. He said throughout a six-year investigation, he and his athletes “endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from the USADA.”
“The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping,” Salazar said.
Nike supported him, putting out a statement saying that the arbitrators’ reports illustrate “the amount of care Alberto took to ensure he was complying with the World Anti-Doping Code.”
Hassan said she was aware of the USADA investigation when she joined Salazar’s team “and have always had a clean conscience, knowing we are being monitored to the absolute fullest by USADA and” the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“I am saddened by the timing of USADA as it brings my championship out of balance,” she said.
The existence of the long-running USADA investigation became public after a 2015 report by BBC and ProPublica that detailed some of Salazar’s practices, which included use of testosterone gel and infusions of a supplement called L-carnitine that can greatly enhance athletic performance.
USADA said it received information from 30 witnesses, including distance runner Kara Goucher and a former NOP coach, Steve Magness. Goucher left NOP in 2011, and in the ProPublica piece, she called Salazar a “sort of a win-at-all-costs person and it’s hurting the sport.” Magness was sent down to Brown’s office in Houston for an L-carnitine infusion to see how effective it was. He left NOP in 2012.
After the ban was announced, Magness sent out a tweet that said: “Tell the truth. Own your mistakes. Choose the difficult path.”
Farah, who runs for Britain, worked with the Nike Oregon Project while he was racking up six world and four Olympic championships. During that period, UK Athletics did its own investigation into Salazar and gave Farah the OK to continue working with him. Farah parted ways with Salazar in 2017, saying he wanted to move back home.
Today, Farah released a statement saying he has “no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line.”
Salazar also coached Galen Rupp of the U.S., a 2012 and 2016 Olympic medalist, who in the past has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The 61-year-old Cuban born coach was a college star at Oregon, who went on to win four major marathon titles, in New York and Boston, from 1980-82.
USADA’s dogged pursuit of him in a difficult case that never directly implicated any of his athletes was a reminder of how track’s doping issues stretch well beyond the Russian scandal that has overtaken the sport over the last several years. The other four Salazar athletes in Doha this week are from Ethiopia (Yomif Kejelcha), Germany (Konstanze Klosterhalfen), Australia (Jessica Hull) and the United States (Craig Engels).
USADA said it relied on more than 2,000 exhibits between the two cases and that proceedings included nearly 5,800 pages of transcripts.
“The athletes in these cases found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “While acting in connection with the Nike Oregon Project, Mr. Salazar and Dr. Brown demonstrated that winning was more important than the health and wellbeing of the athletes they were sworn to protect.”