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Former Nike running coach Alberto Salazar’s four-year doping ban upheld by arbitration panel

Alberto Salazar lost his appeal of a four-year ban from coaching track and field athletes. (Kin Cheung/AP)
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Nike running coach Alberto Salazar and a doctor with whom he consulted lost their appeals to overturn a four-year ban for anti-doping violations, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Thursday.

Salazar counted Olympic medalists Mo Farah, Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp among the dozens of high-profile runners he once trained. He headed the since-shuttered Nike Oregon Project, an aggressive and secretive group Nike funded with the aim of revitalizing American distance running.

No athletes were accused or punished in relation to Salazar’s ban, and the CAS ruling stated the violations did not affect any competitions.

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Salazar received the ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2019 after a years-long investigation that stemmed from alleged actions he and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown undertook between 2009 and 2012.

USADA claimed Salazar administered a banned substance, tampered and/or attempted to tamper with the doping control process, and trafficked and/or attempted to traffic testosterone. It banned Brown for administering a banned substance, tampering and/or attempted tampering with the doping control process, and trafficking and/or attempted trafficking of testosterone. Salazar called the charges “completely false” when he was banned 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 — even those, like here, who orchestrate coverups and attempt to obstruct the truth,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement.

In the ruling it released Thursday, CAS determined Salazar possessed testosterone, was complicit in Brown’s administration of substances by a prohibited method and tampered with the doping control process.

In a news release, CAS said its panel emphasized that no violations “directly affected” competition and that it saw no evidence that the violations had any effect on Nike Oregon Project athletes. Though the CAS panel upheld USADA’s ruling, it also seemed to question some of its methods.

“The circumstances of this matter, the length of hearings and the allegations made at various stages of those hearings, as well as 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,” the CAS news release read.

Salazar has faced unrelated accusations about his conduct with the Nike Oregon Project. In November 2019, about two months after Salazar’s ban, former Nike Oregon Project runner Mary Cain, a phenom who joined the group at 16, accused Salazar of abuses that included body shaming and providing banned medications. Salazar refuted Cain’s claims, but other runners he coached supported her account.

“While this CAS case dealt only with technical anti-doping rule violations, the whistleblowers who came forward prompted an ensuing investigation that resulted in a cascading effect, exposing a toxic and unhealthy culture at the Nike Oregon Project, and unacceptable behaviors and practices against athletes that were carried out by people at the top of the program sworn to protect them,” Tygart said.