Alberto Salazar permanently banned from athletics for sexual and emotional misconduct

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Photo credit: Michael Steele - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Steele - Getty Images

Alberto Salazar, former director of the Nike Oregon Project and coach of some of the world’s top athletes, has been permanently banned from track and field.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit set up to protect vulnerable athletes by reviewing allegations of sexual misconduct, banned Salazar on grounds of sexual and emotional misconduct on Monday, according to the body’s central database. Salazar has ten days to appeal the decision.

Salazar was also suspended for four years in 2019 by the US Anti-Doping Agency for ‘orchestrating and facilitating’ doping in his position as head coach of the Oregon Project. Salazar is currently appealing that ban with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS); his appeal was heard in March but a decision is yet to be announced.

The Center for SafeSport did not release Salazar’s charges on Monday, but in January 2020 the organisation temporarily banned him after a number of Nike athletes accused him of psychological abuse. Mary Cain, the youngest athlete ever to represent the US at a World Championships, said Salazar shamed her in front of teammates for failing to meet weight targets, in a video produced in 2019 by the New York Times. Similarly, Amy Yoder Begley wrote in a 2019 tweet that she was kicked out of the team for placing sixth in a 10,000m race. ‘I was told I was too fat and “had the biggest butt on the starting line”,’ she said.

Salazar denied Cain’s accusations in a statement to The Oregonian newspaper in 2019: ‘Neither of her parents nor Mary raised any of the issues that she now suggests occurred while I was coaching her. To be clear, I never encouraged her, or worse yet, shamed her, to maintain an unhealthy weight,’ he said.

Another elite athlete formerly linked with Salazar is Sir Mo Farah, who trained with him from 2011-2017, during which time he won gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games. A BBC Panorama film revealed last year that Farah was questioned about his relationship with Salazar by US investigators in 2015, but he has never failed a doping test, nor been accused of doping. Salazar also coached Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, who is a strong gold medal contender for the 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m in Tokyo.

Before he became a coach, Salazar was one of the most talented distance runners of his generation, winning the New York City marathon in 1980, 1981 and 1982. He is also famous for the ‘Duel in the Sun’ at the Boston Marathon in 1982.

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