Athletes With 'Courage' Talked. Now, a Coaching Legend Banned

Alberto Salazar booted from track and field for 4 years over Nike-bankrolled doping experiments
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2019 8:05 AM CDT
Banned Coach Used Own Sons as 'Guinea Pigs': USADA
In this June 28, 2015, file photo, Alberto Salazar is shown at the US track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.   (AP Photo/Ryan Kang, File)

Alberto Salazar was so excited in 2011 about the performance-enhancing supplement L-carnitine that he sent an email to none other than Lance Armstrong. "Lance, call me asap!" Salazar wrote. "We have tested it, and it's amazing." Salazar was prepping to infuse the supplement into his runners' systems so it could help them in the coming London Olympics, all part of a series of doping experiments bankrolled and supported by Nike. Some athletes on Salazar's Nike Oregon Project team, however, expressed concern to the US Anti-Doping Agency, sparking a six-year investigation that culminated Tuesday with Salazar, the US' preeminent distance training coach, getting a four-year ban from his sport and booted from the world championships in Doha. "The athletes ... found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said, per the AP. A few notes:

  • The USADA released a pair of 100-plus-page decisions by an arbitration panel that delivered the suspensions for both Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown, the endocrinologist who did contract work for NOP and administered the medicine. The documents, combined with earlier reporting spearheaded by the BBC and ProPublica, paint a picture of a coach and doctor who used athletes, employees, and, in one case, even Salazar's own sons, as guinea pigs to test theories on how supplements and medicine could enhance performance without breaking anti-doping rules.
  • The documents also show they went to great lengths to produce falsified and incomplete medical records that made their master plan hard to detect.
  • It "will be interesting to determine the minimal amount of topical male hormone required to create a positive test," Nike CEO Mark Parker wrote to Brown in an email exchange about an experiment Salazar was conducting on his sons with testosterone gel.
  • Parker, in an open letter to Nike employees posted Tuesday on social media, emphasized the tests on Salazar's sons weren't done to figure out how to cheat, but were part of a plan to prevent potential sabotage against Salazar's runners. "Nike did not participate in any effort to systematically dope any runners ever; the very idea makes me sick," Parker wrote.

More here on the ban and backstory, including what Nike has to say about Salazar.

(More Nike stories.)

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