“I’m not surprised. So I guess the evidence must have been overwhelming. If Nike has any ethics they will shut down the Salazar group immediately and terminate his employment. The ruling asks big questions about the successes of all the athletes who have worked with him, and who are currently working with him. Also, it asks questions about the ethics of UK athletics who embraced his methods and cleared him of any wrongdoing when the allegations first surfaced. It’s a blow against the poison of excessive athlete medicalization and unethical ‘sports science’ which many federations prioritize over coaching.”
– Jon Brown, three-time Olympian, and former British 10,000m record holder.
Alberto Salazar’s four-year ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was delivered on September 30th some four years after the investigation began. The investigation started after the joint 2015 ProPublica and BBC Panorama program was broadcast documenting their own investigation into the matter. But the allegations began earlier, long before the new millennium.
See United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) findings here>>
Mary Decker-Slaney, for example, tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in 1996 when she qualified for the Atlanta Olympics in the 5,000-metre event. Her lawyers successfully argued that the tests were not reliable on mature women (age 37) who take birth control medication. She was eliminated in the semis, however, the proverbial smoke was emanating.
Prior to the Decker-Slaney incident, in 1994, Salazar was prescribed Prozac, which apparently enabled him to train at a high level, post-retirement. He claimed that he had exercise-induced asthma and therefore needed the Prozac. He went on to win the 1994 Comrades Marathon. He was apparently obsessed with running and winning and needed that particular win.
It was speculated that Salazar collapsed at the end of the 1982 Duel in the Sun Boston Marathon due to blood doping or taking a banned performance-enhancing drug. Or was he just that competitive, that he would go to the grave in an effort to win? Nothing has ever been proven. His accomplishments achieved during his athletics career would remain in-tact.
During the 2012 London Olympics, an American coach called Athletics Illustrated about Mo Farah of Great Britain. Farah was the reigning 10,000-metre silver and 5,000-metre gold medallist from the 2011 Daegu World Athletics Championships. The coach also wanted to talk about Galen Rupp of Nike Oregon Project. According to the caller, both athletes were under investigation for injecting or taking (in some fashion) high volumes of a particular amino acid, apparently, but not proven to be administered by Salazar.
“I forget the name of the amino acid,” he said, “But I remember it sounded a little like a Finnish person’s surname, ….car..a…teen…. or something like that.”
The product turned out to be L-Carnitine. Dr. Jeffrey Brown, the Nike Oregon Project’s endocrinologist, was apparently involved and has also been banned for four years. USADA cited the product in their report.
One question that is often overlooked is, why does a run club need an endocrinologist?
The two athletes (Farah and Rupp) would go on to finish the 10,000m event taking gold and silver, respectively. Farah would add a second gold medal from the 5,000m race. On Aug. 4, Farah won the 10,000m. On the 8th he qualified for the final of the 5,000m and on the 11th, he won the gold medal for his third high-level distance race in one week – no problem. He would do that again a few more times at other global championships.
Farah and Rupp went 27:30.42 and 27:30.90, respectively. Ethiopian Tariku Bekele finished third in 27:31.43. Two months earlier, Bekele ran the distance in 27:03.24 in England. The year prior, Farah had run the 10K in 26:46.57. The questions burned, was it a tactical race as per the way global championships often go or was it a controlled win?
The American coach called back and asked, “Why do you think that the 2012 Kenyan 10,000m Olympic trials were held in Portland?”
Stuck for an answer, I said, “because it’s a great track, is at sea level and there are some competitive runners racing at Hayward during the Prefontaine Classic?”
“Maybe, but if they wanted sea level, why not run the trials in Europe or right in London, why go another eight time zones west?”
I answered, not getting this at all, “No idea, some of them would be there regardless due to Pre.”
“Perhaps to control who is on the track in London.”
Farah went on to win double gold during the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics as well as the 2013 and 2015 world championships and he won gold during the 2017 world championships in the 10,000m event as he opted to give the 5000 a miss. He has won at least 20 consecutive Diamond League races from 3K to the 10K.
Interestingly, he ran a 1500m best of 3:28.81 in 2013. Only nine athletes have run faster a total of 33 times at the distance. The one key factor is all of the athletes that are faster than Farah and many that are slower specialised at the metric mile, but not Farah. At least two of the faster athletes have been banned for positive doping tests. One athlete, Hicham El Guerrouj, accounts for 14 of those better performances. It’s rare air. It’s a European record, as are Farah’s two-mile and 10,000m best performances. Farah’s Great North Run half-marathon best of 57:09, although not recognised for records, is the fastest 21.1K race by any European, ever. Farah has shown range like no other athlete, until now.
Farah has also been loosely associated with Jama Aden, a Somalian coach who was caught – according to Spanish police – with needles and other drug paraphernalia. He was arrested and let go, the investigation continues. Aden was staying at a hotel in Sabadell, Spain. The Spanish police believed that they had good enough reason to pour enough resources into the investigation to run a month-long surveillance of the hotel.
On-site, apparently 20 of 22 athletes were tested for performance-enhancing drugs.
Farah has been photographed in pictures with Aden while training as well as posing together. Farah denies the connection.
Farah stands out as one of the all-time greats in terms of range, a term used to imply speed over a great range of distances, but there is a new kid on the block.
Salazar-coached Sifan Hassan won the 10,000m race at the 2019 IAAF Doha World Athletics Championships in the time of 30:17.62. She ran the final 1500m in the time of 3:59.09 – a top-200 time in history for the metric mile, in 23-degree temperatures.
Her range is similar to Farah’s. She owns a world-class 800m best of 1:56.81 and a similarly world-class half-marathon best of 65:15. Her range is completely off the charts. She has 13 consecutive Diamond League wins.
In 2017, the phone rang again. This time it was a massage practitioner who called to talk about suspicious activity going on in the Salazar camp.
“I was offered the job of working with the athletes for a period of time and even travelled with them to Europe,” said the massage therapist. “I was in Europe and something really strange happened…”
The therapist went on to say that Salazar, Rupp and perhaps other athletes had mysteriously left the hotel to head back to the US without mentioning it to him. Later, he received a call from Alberto saying, “don’t take this the wrong way, but there are some packages and prescriptions in the fridge. Can you get them to us?”
The American massage therapist, alone from his European hotel room, was tasked with shipping or carrying what could possibly be banned performance-enhancing drugs, needles and paraphernalia.
He said, “Salazar was going to put it all on me if the packages were inspected at a border; it was on me. He was totally throwing me under the bus; he needed a mule”
The caller added, “Strangely in their awkward attempts to make the whole thing appear “plausible” they both conveniently forgot their wallets and other personal effects. It made no sense whatsoever.”
He subsequently stopped working for them, and fortunately for him, there were no reports of stolen wallets.
In 2014, a coach associated with Nike was quick to point out to me that the ProPublica and BBC investigations give the public a glimpse of what’s been known for years. “He is hot-headed and arrogant. Let’s just say he has tendencies. I am not a psychologist, but he’s got issues.”
According to him, Salazar approached Kara Goucher on the flight to the 2011 Daegu world championships in a drunken stupor and tried to kiss her. “That’s one of the main reasons that she left.”
“He once told Jackie Areson that her butt was so big that she could barely lift her legs. Then right after, he said the same thing about Jenny Simpson.”
Apparently, Yoder Bagely was kicked off of the team for finishing in fifth place at the US championships in 2011. Salazar complained about her weight too.
Apparently, Bagely handed over her test results to show her body composition and Salazar retorted, “I don’t care about the science, I know what I see and you are fat.”
Asked about the apparent L-Carnitine investigation that I heard about from the American coach I asked what he thought and he went quiet and said, “I have to lay low for now, but sounds like something he would do.”
The caller got back to the fat-shaming, “the abuses and the manipulations were normal there.”
Also, I sat in on meetings about Diamond League events and Rupp refused to run against certain individuals. They did that all the time. It started when former US 10,000m record holder Chris Solinsky beat him at Stanford.”
Solinksy, as it turns out, ran for rival Jerry Schumacher, who is the coach at Bowerman Track Club, another Nike project of sorts – the two coaches apparently have a caustic relationship that once came to a well-publicised head at a track meet in New Mexico.
“I cannot tell if Phil Knight and Alberto have a relationship. I don’t know if anyone really knows the depth of the issues.”
He continued, “In Salazar’s head, if the product is not banned, then it is okay [to take]. So, for example, if you take Prednisone just before a competition, but just far enough out so it doesn’t show up in a race test, it’s fine.”
I asked him, “So, considering his highly competitive nature, do you think his finish line collapse at the Duel in the Sun was due to blood doping?”
“Probably, that makes sense. I mean Salazar is on testosterone right now. He carries around Androgel; it’s his own prescription.”
Asked about the Kenyan Olympic trials in Oregon and if that had anything to do with controlling who is on the start line in London, he was non-committal, “sounds like something that he could do.”
During an interview, I asked an unnamed Kenyan athlete why the 10,000m trials were held in Oregon and the athlete replied with a terse, “No comment.” I suggested that the answer is begging for more information, perhaps you want to re-think what you just said.”
“…because the race in Oregon would be very well organized.”
Shortly after the 2012 Olympics, the phone rang again, it was the American coach.
He rhetorically asked, “So, how did the Kenyans do in London?”
“Not great, I replied,”
“Correct. And it doesn’t matter. They are doped to the gills too. Alberto is just trying to keep up.”