US distance coach Alberto Salazar loses appeal against doping violations
Alberto Salazar, the US distance coach who guided Mo Farah to four Olympic gold medals and six world titles, has lost his appeal against a series of doping violations.
Salazar had vowed to clear his name after being sanctioned in October 2019 and appealed to the court of arbitration for sport. But after a virtual hearing that lasted seven days in March his sanction was upheld and as a result he will have to serve his full four-year ban.
Jeffrey Brown, who worked as a paid consultant endocrinologist for Nike on performance enhancement and served as a physician for many of Salazar’s athletes, also lost his appeal against a similar four-year ban.
In a media release, Cas said that some aspects of the Usada investigation “seemed to be out of proportion and excessive when compared to the severity and consequences of the anti-doping rule violations (ADRV) that have been established”
Cas also emphasised that “none of the ADRVs directly affected athletic competition, and that there was no evidence put before the Cas as to any effect on athletes competing at the elite level within the Oregon Project”.
“However, the panel was satisfied that the rules have been properly applied, and that, on the basis of the ADRVs found by the Cas Panel, the sanctions have been determined in accordance with the relevant version of the Wada Anti-Doping Code.”
CAS ruled Salazar guilty of three offences, namely possession of testosterone, complicity in Brown’s administration of a prohibited method, and tampering with the doping control process.
The Oregon Project had been set up initially to help US endurance athletes to beat the best runners from Africa but later recruited several top athletes, including Farah and Sifan Hassan, from around the world.
However an investigation by the BBC and ProPublic in 2015 based on whistleblowers from the Oregon Project, including the assistant coach Steve Magness and the world 10,000m medallist Kara Goucher, raised questions about its methods and led to Salazar being formally investigated by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
In 2019 the 63-year-old was found by an arbitration panel to have trafficked testosterone, a banned performance-enhancing substance, administered a prohibited IV infusion and tampered or attempted to tamper with athletes’ doping control process.
However, Salazar has never been found guilty of doping any of his athletes. Neither Farah, who left the Oregon Project in 2017, nor Hassan has been accused of doping.
Travis Tygart, the Usada chief executive, said: “Getting to this final point in the Nike Oregon Project case has been a long and difficult road, but we are pleased that the CAS Panel upheld multiple anti-doping rule violations and four-year sanctions against both Alberto Salazar and Jeffrey Brown.
“Hopefully, this sends a powerful message that when athletes come to us with information of doping violations or other misconduct, they know we will listen to them and protect them by pursuing the evidence, no matter the power, influence, or financial resources of those in violation — even those, like here, who orchestrate cover-ups and attempt to obstruct the truth.
“While this CAS case dealt only with technical anti-doping rule violations, the whistleblowers who came forward prompted an ensuing investigation that resulted in a cascading effect, exposing a toxic and unhealthy culture at the Nike Oregon Project, and unacceptable behaviour and practices against athletes that were carried out by people at the top of the program sworn to protect them.”