Los Angeles, Oct 1 (AFP/APP):Long distance running guru Alberto Salazar, the former coach of Britain’s four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah, has been slapped with a four-year ban after being found guilty of doping violations.
The decision to ban the 61-year-old from the sport comes after a four-year investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and a prolonged battle behind closed doors.
USADA also said Jeffrey Brown, a Texas endocrinologist who treated many of Salazar’s athletes at his Nike-backed Oregon Project, has also been given a four-year suspension. In announcing the bans, USADA praised the athletes for speaking out.
“The athletes in these cases found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth,” said USADA chief executive Travis Tygart.
“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.”
USADA said in the statement that two, three-member arbitration panels had determined Salazar and Brown should be banned for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct.”
The Cuban-born Salazar operates the Nike Oregon Project — which four-time Olympic champion Farah belonged to from 2011 until 2017.
Salazar was discovered to have trafficked or attempted to traffic banned substance testosterone, given athletes a substance in excess of its permitted limit and tampered with the doping control process of athletes.
“USADA’s investigation yielded a wide range of evidence referenced in the hearing, including eye-witness proof, testimonies, contemporaneous emails, and patient records,” USADA said in a news release.
– ‘I will appeal’ –
“Between the two cases, USADA relied on more than 2,000 exhibits, which the AAA heard along with the defendants’ cases. In all, the proceedings included 30 witnesses and 5,780 pages of transcripts.”
In a statement on the Oregon Project’s website, Salazar denied ever doping his athletes.
“I am shocked by the outcome today,” Salazar said. “Throughout this six-year investigation my athletes and I have endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from USADA.
“I have always ensured the WADA code is strictly followed. The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping. I will appeal and look forward to this unfair and protracted process reaching the conclusion I know to be true.”
Farah left Salazar’s camp in 2017 but denied the decision was related to Oregon Project doping accusations.
The Somalia-born British star, who won back-to-back Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m titles at the 2012 and 2016 Games, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Salazar’s alleged involvement in doping.
“I am a firm believer in clean sport and I strongly believe that anyone who breaks the rules should be punished,” Farah said when announcing his split with Salazar.
“If I had ever had any reason to doubt Alberto, I would not have stood by him all this time,” Farah added.
Salazar is believed to be in Doha where several Oregon Project athletes are competing in the IAAF World Championships.
One of Salazar’s athletes, the Ethiopian-born Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, won the women’s 10,000m on Saturday and will go for more gold in either the 5,000m or 1,500m.