The running world is reeling in the wake of last night’s bombshell that Nike Oregon Project head coach Alberto Salazar has been handed a four-year suspension, effectively immediately, for doping violations and unethical practices. The decision falls in the middle of the 2019 World Championships taking place in Doha, where several of Salazar’s athletes, including Sifan Hassan (who won gold in the women’s 10,000m on Saturday) in the women’s 5,000m, Donovan Brazier and Clayton Murphy in today’s 800m final, Yomif Kejelcha in the 10,000m and Konstanze Klosterhalfen in the 1,500m and 5,000m, are still to race. Salazar and Nike have both issued statements in Salazar’s defense.
The IAAF has reportedly revoked Salazar’s credentials, and he is banned from the Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
IAAF confirms it has deactivated Alberto Salazar's World Championships accreditation. He's not allowed in the Khalifa International Stadium or to have access to any of his athletes, two of which run in the men's 800m final tonight.
— Matt Majendie (@mattmajendie) October 1, 2019
Here is the text of Salazar’s statement:
“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. I will not be commenting further at this time.”
For its part, Nike is supporting Salazar in the wake of the USADA decision:
“Today’s decision has 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.
“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.”
Salazar is the former coach of Mo Farah, who will defend his Chicago Marathon title on October 13. Farah left Salazar in the midst of the ongoing investigation into Salazar’s methods, but denied his leaving had anything to do with the allegations. Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay, who are also both set to race Chicago, currently train with Salazar.