US Anti-Doping Agency says the Nike Oregon Project head coach has been sanctioned “for orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct”
Nike Oregon Project head coach Alberto Salazar and Dr Jeffrey Brown have both been banned for four years for “multiple anti-doping rule violations”, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has announced.
In a statement published on Monday, USADA said Salazar and Brown receive their sanctions “for orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” while working with the Nike Oregon Project (NOP).
Salazar has coached a number of top athletes, including Britain’s Mo Farah.
Salazar has denied any wrongdoing, while there is no suggestion that Farah has violated any rules.
“I’m relieved that USADA has, after four years, completed their investigation into Alberto Salazar,” said Farah in a statement published on Tuesday morning.
“I left the Nike Oregon Project in 2017 but as I’ve always said, I have no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line. A ruling has been made and I’m glad there has finally been a conclusion.”
With the IAAF World Championships currently taking place in Doha, the IAAF confirmed that, on the request of USATF, Salazar’s World Championships accreditation had been deactivated.
“USADA announced today that two independent three-member panels of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) rendered their decisions in the cases of Alberto Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown, determining that each should receive a 4-year sanction for orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct while acting, respectively, as head coach of the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) and as a paid consultant for the NOP on performance enhancement and as physician for numerous athletes in the NOP,” reads a statement from the anti-doping agency in part.
USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart said: “The athletes in these cases found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth.
“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.”
After a career as a highly successful athlete himself, Salazar has gone on to become a top coach, with Farah having been among the American’s NOP stable based in Portland between 2011 and 2017. In 2013, Salazar was hired by UK Athletics (UKA) as a consultant to the national governing body’s endurance programme.
Monday’s USADA decision follows a four-year investigation, which began after a BBC investigation put Salazar at the centre of doping allegations.
The USADA statement says the AAA panel found that Salazar and Brown “trafficked testosterone, a banned performance-enhancing substance, administered a prohibited IV infusion, and engaged in tampering to attempt to prevent relevant information about their conduct from being learned by USADA.”
The Salazar panel wrote: “Respondent and Dr. Brown communicated repeatedly about the athletes of the NOP’s performance and medical conditions, exchanging information without any apparent formal authorization by the athletes at the NOP or distinction between Dr. Brown’s role as an athlete’s physician and NOP consultant. Respondent and Dr. Brown shared information with the aim of improving the athletes’ performance via medical intervention, with a particular interest in increasing testosterone levels.”
In a statement published on the Nike Oregon Project website, Salazar is quoted as saying: “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 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 characterizing him as the coach they heard from the most with respect to trying to ensure that he was complying with his obligations.’
“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.”
According to the BBC, a statement from Nike said the decision had “nothing to do with administering banned substances to any Oregon Project athlete”.
“As the panel noted, they were struck by the amount of care Alberto took to ensure he was complying with the World Anti-Doping code,” it added.
“We support Alberto in his decision to appeal and wish him the full measure of due process that the rules require. Nike does not condone the use of banned substances in any manner.”
A statement released by UK Athletics on Tuesday morning reads: “The Board of UK Athletics acknowledges the announcement made by USADA concerning the four-year sanction imposed on Alberto Salazar.
“The Board and Performance Oversight Committee (POC) will now review the arbitration decision in full prior to making any further comment.
“It should be noted that at all times UK Athletics fully cooperated with both USADA and UKAD throughout the investigations. Furthermore the Performance Oversight Committee’s own investigation in 2015 was restricted to the interaction of the Nike Oregon Project with Mo Farah, and not an anti-doping investigation. Such investigations can and should only be undertaken by the relevant anti-doping authorities.
“UK Athletics is 100% committed to Clean Athletics through investment in athlete education, supporting comprehensive testing programmes, and full cooperation with both UK and International Anti-Doping Authorities.”
The four-year bans handed to Salazar and Brown began on September 30, 2019 – the date the decisions were released.
Redacted versions of the arbitration decisions are available here.