Track coach Alberto Salazar received no relief from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which upheld his four-year ban for a series of doping-related violations that had long been pursued by American regulators.
CAS announced the decision Thursday, confirming its three-judge panel has rejected two appeals — one from Salazar and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown, who challenged their four-year bans, and a request by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for longer sanctions.
The judges confirmed Salazar had broken anti-doping rules and had been banned in line with current guidance, but they also were critical of USADA's handling of the case over several years.
The court said in a statement “the way in which the case was conducted by USADA and that the evidence was presented and, in some cases, later abandoned, seemed to be out of proportion and excessive when compared to the severity and consequences of the (violations) that have been established.”
Salazar is the former marathon champion who, as coach of the Nike Oregon Project, trained a long list of championship distance runners including Mo Farah, Galen Rupp and, for a time, Kara Goucher. None of his former runners have been charged with doping violations.
Tipped off by Goucher and others, the USADA investigated Salazar and the running team for about six years before handing down sanctions in 2019.
“Hopefully, this sends a powerful message that when athletes come to us with information of doping violations or other misconduct, they know we will listen to them and protect them by pursuing the evidence, no matter the power, influence, or financial resources of those in violation,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.
Among Salazar's practices, according to the USADA investigation, was sending athletes to Brown's office to be infused with a supplement called L-carnitine at doses that surpassed allowable thresholds; the coach also experimented on his sons using testosterone gels.
Salazar has long proclaimed he did nothing wrong. In a statement Thursday, he said he was pleased at the CAS decision to reject “USADA's effort to impose a lifetime ban.”
“The decision reaffirmed that no Nike Oregon Project athlete was ever doped, that no competition was impacted by these technical violations, and that I generally took great care to ensure that any new techniques, methods and substances were lawful under the WADA Code,” Salazar said.
The upholding of the doping ban might not have any practical effect on the 63-year-old coach, who is appealing a lifetime ban handed down earlier this summer by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for sexual and emotional misconduct.
In 2019, a handful of runners, including Goucher, Mary Cain, and Amy Yoder Begley revealed that they had been emotionally and physically abused while working with Salazar as part of the NOP, which was disbanded shortly after the doping ban was revealed.
Arbitrators who decided the case in USADA's favor during the appeal that led to the 2019 decision said that in addition to the L-carnitine infusions, there were “numerous other examples of this type of ‘medical’ direction in the record of this case.” The directions involved calcium supplements, anti-inflammatories, sleep medication and the consistent pushing of thyroid medicine that is often used to increase metabolism and control weight.
The CAS and SafeSport decisions appear to be career-enders for Salazar, who won four major marathon titles in New York and Boston in the early ’80s, then went on to found NOP, which stood as one of the world’s most-renowned track clubs for nearly two decades.
Olympic champions who have trained at NOP include Sifan Hassan, who won three Olympic medals in Tokyo — gold in the women's 5,000 and 10,000 meters at bronze in the 1,500; four-time gold medalist Farah, who completed the men's 5,000-10,000 double at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016; and Matt Centrowitz Jr., who took the men's 1,500 title at Rio.
The CAS judges repeated that none of Salazar's rule-breaking they had seen “directly affected athletic competition.”
“(T)here was no evidence put before the CAS as to any effect on athletes competing at the elite level within the NOP,” the court said.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.
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