Track coach Alberto Salazar accused of cheating by former team members

Alberto Salazar
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At least seven former athletes and staff members of the Nike Oregon Project track group spoke with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, according to the BBC and ProPublica, which reported that those formerly close to the group’s coach Alberto Salazar said Salazar violated medical and anti-doping rules with his athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said “any investigation will be a matter for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the IAAF, and the relevant information shall be passed to them,” in a statement.

USADA said in the BBC and ProPublica reports that it does not confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.

Salazar’s methods included “the use of banned steroids and unethical practices,” according to the BBC.

Former Salazar assistant Steve Magness said the coach “achieved the pinnacle of distance running success by cheating,” according to ProPublica.

Salazar denied wrongdoing.

“No athlete within the Oregon Project uses a medication against the spirit of the sport we love,” Salazar said in an email, according to ProPublica.

Salazar, who won three straight New York City Marathons from 1980-82, coaches Olympic 10,000m gold and silver medalists Brit Mo Farah and American Galen Rupp, among other athletes.

Neither Farah nor Rupp has ever failed a drug test.

“I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance,” Rupp said, according to the BBC, with ProPublica adding that Farah also emailed a similar statement.

Farah was not implicated in “inappropriate drug use” by any of the former Nike Oregon Project team members interviewed, according to ProPublica.

Salazar and Rupp issued further statements to media Wednesday, via The Associated Press and the Oregonian:

“I believe in a clean sport and hard work, and so do my athletes,” Salazar said. “Apparently that is not interesting enough for some.  I am very disappointed that the BBC and ProPublica and their ‘reporters’ have allowed themselves to be used by individuals with agendas and have engaged in such inaccurate and unfounded journalism. Rather than present the facts, they opted for sensationalism and innuendo. It is particularly sad that they have attacked Galen and his excellent reputation, which he has earned through years of hard work.”

“I am very disappointed in the BBC and ProPublica,” Rupp said. “I am dedicated to clean sport and have worked extemely hard for every accomplishment in my running career. I expressly told these reporters that these allegations were not true and their sources admit they have no evidence, yet they print “suspicions” attacking me and sullying my reputation. That is inexcusable, irresponsible journalism.”

Magness and former Nike Oregon Project runner Kara Goucher, a two-time U.S. Olympian, said they witnessed concerning practices with Rupp, a 29-year-old coached by Salazar since high school.

In a BBC TV report accompanying the website reports Wednesday, a reporter told Goucher that Rupp was the most drug tested U.S. athlete.

“So was Lance Armstrong,” Goucher responded. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

Magness said he saw a document that stated Rupp was on “testosterone medication” banned for athletes at a date that corresponded to when Rupp was in high school.

“Magness claimed when he questioned the coach about the document, Salazar said it had been a mistake,” the BBC reported.

Goucher said that when she was coached by Salazar, the coach told her to take a thyroid medication for which she did not have a prescription and was told by her doctor not to take.

“I loved him,” Goucher, tearing up on the BBC broadcast, said of Salazar, whom she left as a coach in 2011. “He was like a father figure to me [Goucher’s father was killed by a drunk driver when she was 4]. It feels like a betrayal, a little bit.”

Rupp finished third in a 5000m at the Prefontaine Classic meet in Eugene, Ore., last Friday. Rupp and other U.S. athletes can qualify for August’s World Championships at the U.S. Championships in Eugene, Ore., in three weeks.

Galen Rupp talks training with Mo Farah, marathons, weird drug test story