POSTED: June 9th 2015

JOHN GOODBODY: Alberto Salazar needs to come clean and quickly over doping allegations

(L to R) Galen Rupp, Alberto Salazar, and Mo Farah © Michael Steele Getty Images
(L to R) Galen Rupp, Alberto Salazar, and Mo Farah © Michael Steele Getty Images

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) American Alberto Salazar is widely regarded as one of the outstanding long-distance running coaches in the world. And many people would make that accolade read as the outstanding coach in the world. He was the man, who transformed Britain's Mo Farah into a world and Olympic champion over both 5,000 and 10,000 metres, a double, which has become increasingly hard to do as athletes often concentrate on one or the other.

And Farah is not the only leading runner to be influenced by Salazar at his Nike Oregon Project centre. Galen Rupp, whom Salazar has been coaching for more than 10 years, was second to Farah over 10,000 metres at the London Games, the first American to get a medal in this event since Billy Mills surprisingly won in 1964.  

 There have been rumours about some of Salazar's methods for some years, such as the employment of TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions) by some his athletes but he has also been praised for his innovative and legal practices.

However, a BBC Panorama television programme clearly made some serious allegations against Salazar having used drugs and other illicit practices in preparing his athletes. It was claimed that he had given testosterone, the male hormone, to Rupp many years ago, although Salazar said that the evidence on which this was based was a mistake because the word should have been testoboost, a legal supplement, and it was incorrectly registered in a log.

 It must be emphasised that there was no suggestion in the programme that Farah himself had ever done anything illegal and none of the Nike Oregon Project athletes have ever tested positive for a banned substance.

However, Farah has got drawn into the controversy because he is coached by Salazar and credits him for much of his success. In a media conference in Birmingham where he had been scheduled to run in the 1,500 metres, the Briton said:"I am really angry at the situation. It is not right or fair. I have not done anything but my name is being dragged through the mud."

Farah was so disturbed by the claims that he withdrew from the race to return to Oregon to seek face-to-face reassurance from Salazar that the allegations were false. Before leaving Britain, he said:"I do not know what is going on. Are they true or not? If they turn out to be true, then I will be the first person to leave him. My reputation is getting ruined. You guys are killing me. I'm a clean athlete. I'm against drugs and believe that anyone caught should be banned for life."

UK Athletics, the national governing body, has used Salazar as an unpaid consultant and it said that it "had absolutely no concerns" over the conduct and coaching methods of Salazar.

Some of the runners and officials, who spoke to the programme entitled 'Catch Me If You Can', have gone to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). A spokeswoman for the agency said this week that it "aggressively" follows up reports of doping: "With that said, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation."

Usada, whose work finally brought down Lance Armstrong, is clearly the most appropriate body to investigate these allegations since most of them involve American athletes and Salazar is himself American. This strategy is also advocated by Sir Craig Reedie, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The sooner that Usada reveals any findings or clears Salazar from these allegations of malpractice, the better it will be for him, Farah and the sport of athletics. Action is needed -and it is needed fast.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

Keywords · Olympics · Alberto Salazar

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