High-profile athletics coach Alberto Salazar has been banned for four years for “multiple anti-doping rule violations.”
The American is head coach of the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), the prolific long-distance running group that has produced some of the world’s best athletes, including four-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, who Salazar coached between 2011 and 2017.
Salazar, 61, and Jeffrey Brown, a consultant doctor for the NOP, were ruled to have trafficked testosterone, tampered with the doping control process, and administered a banned intravenous infusion.
He was suspended by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after a four-year investigation.
“The athletes in these cases found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth,” said USADA boss 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 well being of the athletes they were sworn to protect.”
Two independent panels said that the pair had also repeatedly exchanged information about athletes’ performance and medical conditions “without any apparent formal authorization by the athletes.”
Cuban-born Salazar enjoyed a distinguished athletics career, winning the New York marathon for three consecutive years between 1980-82. He also held American track records over 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
The news comes during a grim week for the sport of athletics with poor attendance levels at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
“I am shocked by the outcome today,” said Salazar in a statement released by the NOP.
“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.”
Salazar said he would appeal against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
British distance runner Farah split from Salazar in 2017 when he moved away from track running to focus on the marathon.
“I’m relieved USADA has completed their investigation into Alberto Salazar,” said Farah, a gold medalist over 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
“I left the Nike Oregon Project in 2017 but 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.”
Salazar’s accreditation for the World Championships has been deactivated, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), meaning he cannot enter Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium, nor have access to any of his athletes.
In a statement, Nike, which provides financial backing for the NOP, said the decision has “nothing to do with administering banned substances to any Oregon Project athlete.”
It added: “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.
“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.”