The doping allegations about well-known distance running coach Alberto Salazar put forth in the collaborative ProPublica/BBC reports continue to precipitate reaction. Here are some further thoughts on the subject.
1. Most doping stories focus on an athlete; this one is about the coach. It’s about Salazar’s alleged gaming of therapeutic use exemptions. It’s about his willingness to jeopardize the health of his athletes, and bend rules. It’s about the culture of Alberto. Other top coaches remain very much in the background, including that other Nike coach, Jerry Schumacher. Do you even know who Meb Keflezighi’s coach is? What do you hear from Des Linden’s coach? When was the last time Ajee Wilson’s coach gave a press conference? When Mo Farah and Galen Rupp won gold and silver at the 2012 Olympics, Salazar was very much a part of that story. It was seen as a victory for Salazar as much as for his athletes. Salazar’s athletes seem an extension of himself, a way for him to continue winning now that his days of breaking the tape are over. He’s fashioned himself into a father figure, a guru, a genius, a front man, a dictator. More than rules violations, this story is about Salazar’s personality, his personhood.
2. Salazar uses his son as a guinea pig for testosterone?! Whether that’s illegal, legal, a necessary precaution or extreme paranoia is a matter of debate, but it’s certainly irresponsible parenting and a very strange dynamic between any two people. According to Epstein’s source, Steve Magness:
Alex [Salazar] was occasionally used as a guinea pig to test supplements and then get evaluated in the lab. In one instance, Magness says Alex told him that he was testing testosterone gel: rubbing some on, getting tested in the lab, rubbing some more on, getting tested in the lab. Magness said, “it was them trying to figure out how to cheat the tests...So it’s how much can we take without triggering a positive.”
WebMD lists the side effects of testosterone abuse as “the well-known ‘roid rage,’ cessation of normal production of testosterone, testes shrink, sperm production drops, breast tissue develops, and the liver may become diseased.” According to Magness, Salazar exposed his grown son to these risks. If this is true, Salazar has a whole lot more to worry about than doping violations.
3. According to the ProPublica article, Salazar sent Galen Rupp a hollowed out book with pills taped inside.
Magness then flew to Dusseldorf to meet Rupp prior to the race. Soon after he arrived, Rupp told him he wasn’t feeling well. Magness called Salazar, who he says told him to expect a package. Two days later, a box arrived at his hotel room. Inside it he found a paperback thriller. Confused, he flipped it open. A section of the pages had been hollowed out to form a compartment into which two pills were taped. “At that point,” Magness says, “my mind was like, this is stuff you see in movies, this is extremely strange.” He handed the pills to Rupp, who he says promptly swallowed them and laughed off the clandestine packaging as typical Salazar antics.
Again, hiding pills in a hollowed out book is not illegal, but it is bizarre.
4. UK Athletics is absolutely not worried in the least about the fact that they’ve been paying Salazar to be their endurance consultant since 2013. His hiring, to work with UK coaches, was made possible when UK Athletics dropped Adidas and signed on with Nike as their official gear sponsor. The UK press and Mo Farah, though, are a little worried. In fact, Farah was so exhausted and drained from worry, he withdrew from the June 7 Diamond League track meet held in Birmingham, England. He was slated to race 1500 meters. Epstein and Daly said very clearly that Farah was not implicated in any of the allegations. The focus is not on UK athletes doping so much as extricating themselves from the strange SalazarWorld in which they’ve become enmeshed.
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