London: Leading American coach Alberto Salazar has encouraged athletes in his care to take banned substances, a documentary screened by the BBC on Wednesday claims.
Mo Farah. Pic/AFP
Salazar, 56, who coaches Britain's two-time Olympic champion Mo Farah, is alleged to have doped Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp, the USA's national 10,000 metres record-holder, in 2002. Both Salazar, an athletics great who won three successive New York marathons, and Rupp deny any wrongdoing, while there is no suggestion that Farah has broken doping rules.
The investigation by the Panorama programme centres on the Nike running camp in Portland, Oregon, where Salazar is the head coach. Steve Magness, who worked as an assistant to Salazar at the Oregon Project in 2011, said he saw a document showing Rupp's drug levels, which revealed the then-teenager was taking prohibited testosterone medication.
"When I saw that, I kind of jumped backwards," Magness, a former athlete, tells the documentary. "Testosterone is obviously banned... Everybody knew that. When I looked a little further, I saw it was all the way back in high school, and that was incredibly shocking." The documentary also features testimony from athletes and staff who worked with Salazar at the Oregon Project and who accuse him of facilitating the use of banned substances and illegal practices.
In a statement to the BBC, Salazar said the "allegations your sources are making are based upon false assumptions and half-truths in an attempt to further their personal agendas". Salazar says the 'testosterone medication' on the document seen by Magness was an erroneous reference to the legal nutritional supplement Testoboost. Rupp, 29, strongly denies the allegations in the documentary, saying: "I am completely against the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
Farah, who won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the London 2012 Olympics, told the BBC: "I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance." Farah, 32, has worked with Salazar since 2011. Rupp, who took silver behind his training partner Farah in the 10,000 metres at the 2012 Olympics, has been a member of Salazar's stable for 14 years.
None of the Nike Oregon Project's athletes has ever failed a drug test, but David Howman, chief executive of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), expressed concern over the documentary's claims. "I would be not only disturbed, I would be very disappointed and that's why I think it needs to be scrutinised by us as an independent body," he said.