In Depth

Mo Farah coach Salazar denies testosterone doping claims

BBC documentary alleges that US coach used 'banned steroids and unethical practices'

The world of athletics has suffered another blow to its reputation after a BBC Panorama report made doping allegations against one of the sport's most respected coaches.

The allegations concern Alberto Salazar, an American long-distance runner better known in the UK as the man who has overseen Mo Farah's rise to superstardom.

While there is no suggestion the British double Olympic champion is involved in any illegal activity, Farah will nonetheless have to ask himself if he wishes to continue to be associated with a coach whose methods have been called into question. 

Salazar established his training regime, the Oregon Project, at the Portland headquarters of Nike. Farah joined his stable in 2011, the year before he won Olympic gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the London Games.

As the Panorama report pointed out, none of the Nike Oregon Project [NOP] athletes has ever failed a drug test. But the BBC highlighted claims about some of Salazar's methods "including the use of banned steroids and unethical practices".

One of those fingered in the report was Galen Rupp, the US 10,000m record holder and the man who took silver at that distance behind Farah in 2012. It is alleged that Rupp has been on testosterone since he was 16. In response to the claims, the 29-year-old Rupp said: "I am completely against the use of performance enhancing drugs. I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance."

Yet that claim was contradicted in the BBC report by Steve Magness, who was Salazar's number two at the Oregon Project in 2011. He described how he saw a document revealing details of Rupp's "testosterone medication".

"When I saw that, I kind of jumped backwards," Magness said. "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."

According to Magness when he confronted Salazar about the issue, the latter "said it had been a mistake". Magness left Nike after the 2012 London Olympics and expressed his concerns to the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada). The Panaroma report added that "at least seven athletes or staff associated with the NOP" have gone Usada with their concerns.

Salazar refused to be interviewed for the Panorama report but in a statement issued to the BBC he claimed the 'testosterone medication' referred to by Magness was in fact the legal nutritional supplement Testoboost. Salazar said that the allegations aired in the programme came from sources who are making "false assumptions and half-truths in an attempt to further their personal agendas".

He added: "I believe in a clean sport and a methodical, dedicated approach to training and have never, nor ever will, endorse the use of banned substances with any of my athletes... no athlete within the Oregon Project uses a medication against the spirit of the sport we love. Any medication taken is done so on the advice and under the supervision of registered... medical professionals."

Yet one athlete involved in the Oregon Project for several years, and who spoke to the BBC on condition anonymity, claimed he had been encouraged to use testosterone and thyroid drugs because "this is what Alberto does". He added: "I talked to some people that know sport. They started to put words to it - that's micro-dosing - that is illegal. That's a smart way to cheat, just give yourself small boosts of testosterone to keep you in the legal limit. I was shocked, like someone punched me in the stomach."

Contacted by the BBC, Farah told them: "I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance. From my experience, Alberto and the Oregon Project have always strictly followed Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] rules and if there is ever a question [they] seek guidance from Usada to ensure they are correctly interpreting Wada's rules."

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