Mo Farah’s coach denies allegations made three weeks ago by Panorama
US coach Alberto Salazar has issued an 11,000-word response to claims made by BBC’s Panorama and website ProPublica that he broke doping rules.
The coach of Mo Farah writes in part: “I will never permit doping. Oregon Project athletes must fully comply with the WADA Code and IAAF Rules. At no time do we use science in violation of the WADA Code. We strictly adhere to competition and anti-doping rules at all times. I have not and will not condone any athlete I train using a banned substance and would never encourage any athlete to use a banned substance. We have worked very, very hard to achieve our successes and are proud of our accomplishments.”
In concluding the statement, he demands BBC and ProPublica “publish a retraction of their false statements”.
David Epstein, the reporter for ProPublica, commented on Twitter after an early sight of the statement: “for salazar responses, check out OP web site. Lots of material, much for allegations never reported, some for allegations reported”.
British Athletics, who use Salazar as an unpaid consultant and supported Farah’s move to train with him in Oregon, released a statement in response: “UK Athletics acknowledges the publication of a statement by Alberto Salazar on the NOP website responding to claims made in the BBC Panorama programme ‘Catch me if you can’.
“The content of the statement will be referred to our Performance Oversight Group for consideration in their ongoing internal review, terms of reference for which can be found here.
“We emphasise once again that the Panorama programme contained no allegations against any British athletes, nor have any been made subsequently.”
Salazar addressed at length the allegations, including those from primary source Steve Magness, whom he accuses of “spreading malicious false allegations”.
Magness, who was assistant coach at Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project in 2011 and 2012, showed reporters a copy of a log book from 2002 made by NOP physiologist Dr Loren Myrhe which said that a then 16-year-old Galen Rupp, who would go to win Olympic 10,000m silver, was “currently on testosterone”. Myrhe died in 2012.
Salazar says that Rupp claims he was using a legal testosterone supplement at the time.
Further regarding that, he says in his statement: “My clear recollection is that when he (Magness) showed it to me, I stated that the entry was “crazy” as Galen had never taken testosterone. I then stated that Galen, as a 16-year old kid, must have misspoken about the supplements he was taking. Like many legal supplements, the labels make a number of claims about boosting one’s testosterone, improving performance and other such marketing statements. Galen likely made some comment about taking something related to a testosterone supplement.”
Salazar criticises Magness for not questioning Myrhe when he was alive on discovering the documentation in 2011.
Testosterone cream experiments
He also alludes to claims from Magness that the NOP was carrying out experiments as to whether a positive test could result from someone having testosterone cream rubbed into them. Salazar insists this was not aimed at carrying out anything illegal.
In the statement, he says it was in reaction to concerns that Chris Whetstine, a massage therapist for Justin Gatlin, may have attempted to sabotage Rupp by rubbing him with testosterone cream as he walked by him in a press mixed zone at a meeting in 20009. After Gatlin’s positive test for testosterone in 2006, the sprinter alleged Whetstine sabotaged him.
Salazar admits of the experiments: “I was a bit naive and let my paranoia get the best of me here but there was never intent to do anything illegal.”
He concludes: “Magness appears to have imagined a scenario to fit his narrative about the Oregon Project and me without regard for the facts and circumstances of what actually occurred.”
Salazar says Magness did not leave the NOP of his own accord but that his contract was ended because “Magness proved to be a poor coach who had difficulty building rapport with world class athletes”.
He adds: “Magness appeared to be focused on one female runner, to the detriment of the others.” He then added he suspected Magness was having a physical relationship with the athlete, which he denied at the time.
The Panorama investigation carried comments from US runner Kara Goucher that Salazar, who coached her at the time, had been asked by him to take Cytomel without a prescription so that she took could lose weight five months after giving birth. Cytomel is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Association but giving someone a prescription drug without a prescription could violate US law.
Salazar denies this, saying that the Dr Jeffrey Brown, an endocrinologist used by the NOP, prescribed it as she had been feeling “tired and off for days”. Goucher, like Rupp, suffers from a thyroid condition. He contends in the statement that he was pleased with Goucher’s weight at the time.
He also contradicts Goucher’s claims to the programme that he tried to have Rupp put on a drip at the 2011 World Championships. He says he emailed USA team officials to ask for Rupp to receive a legal magnesium infusion and vitamin B12 shot as he was suffering due to the heat and humidity in the South Korean city.
Salazar says he and Kara were close, but that his increasingly strained relationship with her husband, Adam, whom he also coached, led to a split. He says that Adam was becoming more and more involved in her training and other arrangements and that because of his he gave her an ultimatum, which led to her leaving the project.
He adds: “It is clear that the statements by Adam and Kara Goucher in the BBC/ProPublica stories are false. I have no idea why they have made these false statements about the Oregon Project, Galen and me. I find it sad beyond words.”
John Stiner and Androgel
The investigative reports interviewed a massage therapist called John Stiner, who had worked with the project briefly in 2008. Stiner testified that he had been asked by Salazar to clear up at a house he and the athletes had been using.
ProPublica quoted Stiner as saying: “He said to me, ‘I don’t want you to get the wrong idea’,” Stiner recalls. “And he goes, ‘There’s a tube of Androgel in the bedroom, and it’s under some clothing.'”
According to Stiner, Salazar, who had suffered a heart condition the year before, told him: “It’s for my heart, it’s all fucked up.”
ProPublica and the BBC said they heard from medical experts who said it was unlikely that a product like Androgel would be prescribed to treat a heart condition and that it would be unusual to prescribe it at all to someone with such a problem because it could increase the risk of death.
However, in his statement, Salazar denies saying it was for his heart. He also links to a copy of a document from a Dr Kristina Harp certifying that since 2005 he has been treated for low testosterone serum levels and that she had prescribed testosterone replacement therapy. She also says the treatment had been reviewed as safe by his cardiologist, Dr Caulfield. She adds that it was given in doses large enough for only him.
Salazar refers to suggestions made on Panorama that a high number of his athletes were on asthma or thyroid medication.
He responds: “Of 55 athletes only 5 have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism after I had started coaching them. Only 8 have been diagnosed with exercise induced asthma.”
As far as asthma is concerned, he claims that percentagewise this is lower than the average for elite athletes, citing a US Olympic Committee study that 21% of middle and long distance athletes on the 2004 Olympic team, had exercise-induced asthma.
The investigations refer to claims from anonymous runner who was part of the project and visited Dr Myrhe in 2007 because of low thyroid and low testosterone. He said he was told by Myrhe to see a doctor used by Salazar, assuring him: “This is what Alberto does. You’ll feel better and you’ll be able to train better.”
ProPublica writes: “The runner says he then questioned whether it was cheating, to which he says Myhre told him, ‘Well no, I mean Alberto does it.’ The runner asked whether taking testosterone would cause a positive test, and recalls Myhre said: ‘No. No. No. We’ll get you into the normal range.’
Salazar says in his statement that the only doctor to whom he referred any athletes for thyroid conditions was Dr Brown and that “Dr. Brown has expressly told me that he has never prescribed testosterone for any athlete I was coaching.”
He sums up: “In a remarkable display of irresponsible journalism, the BBC/ProPublica stories attribute an anonymous source to ‘statements’ allegedly made by a deceased person – Dr. Myhre – 8 years ago.”