Athletics: Salazar broke anti-doping rules: Report

The NYTimes has described a culture of coercion under Alberto Salazar (centre), in which athletes including Mo Farah (right) felt huge pressure to obey him and use possibly illegal drugs advocated by him.
The NYTimes has described a culture of coercion under Alberto Salazar (centre), in which athletes including Mo Farah (right) felt huge pressure to obey him and use possibly illegal drugs advocated by him.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US track coach under fire for possible medical malpractice within Nike's Oregon Project

NEW YORK • A confidential United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) report says track coach Alberto Salazar has violated drug protocols with Britain's Mo Farah and other elite runners, the New York Times has reported.

The newspaper outlined on Saturday how the 269-page report on the Oregon Project, a Nike-financed initiative featuring some of the world's top runners, created tensions between Salazar and athletes over medical issues and methods of boosting performance.

Salazar has denied violating anti-doping rules, saying he and the programme's athletes follow proper anti-doping protocols.

However, the NY Times described a culture of coercion, secrecy and possible medical malpractice in the team - which in part were aimed at improving US distance running on the global level.

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No sanctions against anyone have been announced in the report.

"We cannot comment on the specific situation at this time," a Usada spokesman told the NY Times.

"However, we know there is a win-at-all-costs culture that exists across all levels of sport, and coaches especially - given their influence over athletes - have a responsibility to rise above those pressures and ensure that athlete health and safety are protected."

Salazar was described as a medicine supplier for Nike-backed world-class athletes, and the report said he provided or aided access to prescription-strength doses of drugs such as vitamin D, calcitonin, Advair, testosterone plus various thyroid medications - many of which have no proven benefits for runners.

The news broke a week before some of the world's top athletes gather in Eugene, Oregon, for the Prefontaine Classic, a Diamond League meet.

Usada began investigating Salazar and the Oregon Project in 2015 after former team members and a staff member described a programme of cheating in a report by the BBC and ProPublica.

The report, written in March last year, indicates that Usada officials believe Salazar and Houston endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown administered an infusion procedure in violation of anti-doping rules, colluded to hide it and lied to athletes about its legality, according to the NY Times.

"Salazar's conduct here is patently calculating, misleading and dishonest," said the report, part of an appeal to the Texas Medical Board to force the release of Brown's files.

The Cuban-born Salazar did not cooperate with the Usada investigation and did not respond to the NY Times' interview requests.

The newspaper said Nike declined to respond to questions and US Olympic distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein declined to speak about specifics on his time with Salazar.

He referred to sworn testimony in the report where he and other Nike-backed athletes described a culture where they felt immense pressure to obey Salazar or see their careers end.

They "were acutely aware that these opportunities could be withdrawn at Alberto Salazar's discretion and were dependent both upon Salazar's favour and their own athletic performance", the NY Times quoted the report as saying.

"These facts created huge pressure to conform to Salazar's wishes and use substances and training methods advocated by him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Salazar broke anti-doping rules: report'. Print Edition | Subscribe