Allegations do not gel, says coach

Besides denying the drug allegations and defending himself, Alberto Salazar blasts his accusers, including former assistant Steve Magness.
Besides denying the drug allegations and defending himself, Alberto Salazar blasts his accusers, including former assistant Steve Magness.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Salazar maintains in a lengthy letter he and his athletes are dope-free

LONDON - Alberto Salazar, the controversial coach of double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah, came out fighting on Wednesday night, breaking his silence to deny accusations that either he or any of his athletes had been involved in doping.

The Cuban-born American went into huge detail in an open letter answering allegations made in a BBC Panorama documentary three weeks ago, defending himself and attacking his accusers.

"I believe in a clean sport and hard work and so do my athletes," Salazar said.

"I will never permit doping. I have not and will not condone any athlete I train using a banned substance and would never encourage any athlete to use a banned substance.

  • Everything's above board, Salazar insists

    RENOWNED athletics coach Alberto Salazar provided a 11,600-word rebuttal on Wednesday to the doping allegations engulfing him and his Nike Oregon Project.

    Here are the excerpts of his defence:

    GALEN RUPP

    The BBC Panorama programme alleged that Salazar has doped the 2012 London Olympics 10,000m silver medallist and Mo Farah's training partner since he was a teenager.

    Salazar says the truth is that the American runner suffers from asthma and Hashimoto's disease, a thyroid condition, and "claims that Galen has been on prednisone (banned in competition) continuously since he was 15 are absolutely false".

    THE SABOTAGE TEST

    One of the oddest claims made by the BBC was that Salazar deliberately asked his son, Alex, to find out how much testosterone gel would trigger a positive drug test.

    He says this was a reaction to Justin Gatlin's positive test in 2006, with the sprinter claiming that he had been sabotaged by his massage therapist.

    Rumours were rampant then that athletes could test positive by having something rubbed on them before or after a race.

    Hence, Salazar decided to experiment to see how much Androgel would trigger a positive test. Salazar produces an e-mail from 2009 to his doctor stating: "I'll sleep better now after drug tests at big meets knowing someone didn't sabotage us!"

    STEVE MAGNESS

    The former assistant coach to Salazar was a primary source for the BBC programme. However, Salazar claims that Magness did not leave the Oregon Project because of his mounting anxiety as he claimed, but was sacked in 2012 because he "lacked the ability to coach elite athletes".

    He adds: "He appeared to be intimidated by them. Ultimately, my top runners refused to work with him."

    Salazar also claims that Magness was focused on one female runner to the detriment of others. "He doted on her and some of the other athletes complained to me about his conduct.

    "Steve's behaviour became more and more unprofessional and counter-productive."

    SALAZAR'S GEL

    The BBC quoted John Stiner, an independent massage therapist, saying that Salazar claimed he used a testosterone gel for his heart.

    Medical practitioners told the BBC that this was unusual.

    However, the 56-year-old Salazar says he uses the testosterone gel because he suffers from hypogonadism resulting from excessive training.

    "I have a valid justification for my possession of Androgel as defined by the Wada Code," he says.

    "Their attempt to imply that because I have an Androgel prescription I must be giving it to my athletes is even more wrong.

    "It is hurtful."

    THE TIMES, LONDON

"We have worked very, very hard to achieve our successes and are proud of our accomplishments. I am saddened that these false allegations have been allowed to run with little care for the carnage in their wake.

"I am always extra-cautious and take every step to ensure my athletes comply with the anti-doping rules."

Farah, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, gets only a passing mention in the letter, which runs to more than 11,500 words.

Instead, Salazar launches a lengthy defence of Galen Rupp, Farah's training partner who had faced allegations, which he denies, and spends a long time thrashing one of his accusers, Steve Magness, his former assistant, whom he labels a poor coach obsessed with one female athlete.

Salazar denied that Rupp had taken testosterone as a 16-year-old and said that the only Therapeutic Use Exemptions that the American had had since 2010 were for two short-term doses of prednisone, which was used to treat asthma.

He said Rupp, who won a silver medal behind Farah in the 10,000 metres at the London Olympics, suffers from severe allergies and breathing issues.

"He is medically diagnosed as suffering from both asthma and Hashimoto's disease, a thyroid disease," Salazar said.

The 56-year-old carries a testosterone gel for personal use as treatment for hypogonadism, a condition that impairs the ability of men to produce sperm - one of a series of conditions that he said had required treatment for the past 25 years.

He added that he carried out an experiment on the levels of testosterone gels that could be used before triggering a positive doping test to examine the risk of sabotage.

The Somalia-born Briton Farah, who has refused to leave Salazar despite the allegations, is training in the south of France, as he regularly does during the European track season.

His next scheduled race is in Monaco on July 17.

The relationship between Salazar and UK Athletics, for whom he is also an unpaid consultant, is the subject of a review by a performance oversight group, which is due to report in August.

It said on Wednesday night that Salazar's statement would be passed to the group for consideration.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'ALLEGATIONS DO NOT GEL, SAYS COACH'. Print Edition | Subscribe