Sir Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar ‘shocked’ by doping ban

By Phil Blanche, PA

Sir Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar says he is “shocked” after being banned from athletics for four years for multiple doping violations.

American Salazar, 61, was sanctioned along with endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” while working with the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), the United States Anti-Doping Agency said.

The NOP was home to Farah from 2011 to 2017, during which time he won four Olympic golds in the 5,000m and 10,000m.

Sir Mo Farah
Sir Mo Farah’s former coach has been banned from athletics for four years over anti-doping violations (Richard Sellers/PA)

Salazar, in a statement, said: “I am shocked by the outcome today. Throughout this six-year investigation my athletes and I have endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from USADA.

“This is demonstrated by the misleading statement released by Travis Tygart (USADA chief executive officer) stating that we put winning ahead of athlete safety.

“This is completely false and contrary to the findings of the arbitrators, who even wrote about the care I took in complying with the World Anti-Doping code.

“The panel notes that the respondent does not appear to have been motivated by any bad intention to commit the violations the panel found.

“In fact, the panel was struck by the amount of care generally taken by respondent to ensure that whatever new technique or method or substance he was going to try was lawful under the World Anti-Doping Code, with USADA’s witness characterising him as the coach they heard from the most with respect to trying to ensure that he was complying with his obligations.”

Tygart praised athletes for having the “courage to speak out and ultimately expose the truth” during the four-year USADA investigation.

He said: “While acting in connection with the Nike Oregon Project, Mr Salazar and Dr Brown demonstrated that winning was more important than the health and wellbeing of the athletes they were sworn to protect.”

Salazar’s violations included “administration of a prohibited method”, tampering or attempted tampering with athletes’ doping control processes and trafficking or attempted trafficking of testosterone.

London Olympic Games – Day 8
Alberto Salazar (centre) celebrates with his athletes Mo Farah (right) and Galen Rupp (left) after they won gold and silver medals at the 10,000m at the 2012 London Olympics (Martin Rickett/PA)

Brown was found to have tampered with records, administered an “over-limit” infusion and to have been complicit in Salazar’s trafficking of testosterone.

Salazar moved into coaching after a successful distance running career in which he won the New York Marathon three times and claimed victory in the Boston Marathon in the early 1980s.

Farah, 36, spent six years with Salazar before announcing that he was to leave in October 2017. He denied his decision was to do with the doping claims.

In 2017 he also quit running track races, deciding to concentrate on the marathon, but earlier this year said he might return to the track for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Former Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis is pleased to see coaches being punished rather than just athletes.

She told BBC Radio 5 Live: “If you look at the USADA report, the violations are countless and make for a damning read.

“It’s great that finally coaches are getting sanctioned and banned. In recent times it’s just been the athletes held to account.”

USA Track and Field said in a statement: “USATF’s commitment to clean sport and a level playing field for all athletes cannot be overstated. USATF’s focus remains on the health and well-being of its athletes.”