Track coach Alberto Salazar gets 4-year ban by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

Alberto Salazar has coached the likes of Brit Mo Farah and American Matthew Centrowitz, though none of his athletes were mentioned in USADA's report on Monday. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Track coach Alberto Salazar, who trained four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah and a number of other top runners, has been given a four-year ban by an arbitration panel in a case pursued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

USADA said in a news release Monday that the panel decided on separate four-year bans for Salazar and Houston-based endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone while working at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), where Salazar trained top runners.

Brown did consulting work for the NOP and was a personal physician for some of the runners.

A four-year USADA investigation began after a BBC/ProPublica report that detailed some of Salazar's practices and included allegations that he encouraged athletes to use prescription drugs such as asthma and thyroid medication for performance enhancement rather than legitimate medical need. On Monday, Salazar was sanctioned for use of improper (overly large) infusions of a legal supplement called L-carnitine and tampering with the doping control process. The panel said the doctor tampered with patient records and cited Brown's "complicity" in Salazar's testosterone violations.

Distance runner Kara Goucher and a former NOP coach, Steve Magness, were among the original whistleblowers who later provided evidence in the arbitration hearing. USADA said it received information from 30 witnesses.

The International Association of Athletics Federations issued a statement saying, "On the request of USATF, the IAAF can confirm that Mr Alberto Salazar's IAAF World Championships accreditation has been deactivated."

UK Athletics had done its own investigation into Salazar and given Farah, who runs for Britain, the OK to continue working with him. Farah parted ways with Salazar in 2017, saying he wanted to move back home.

"I'm relieved that USADA has, after four years, completed their investigation into Alberto Salazar," Farah said in a statement. "I left the Nike Oregon Project in 2017 but as I've always said, I have no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line. A ruling has been made and I'm glad there has finally been a conclusion."

Salazar also coached 2012 Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp. Salazar, Rupp and Farah have, in the past, strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Arbitrators said they did not assume that Salazar set out to break anti-doping rules and noted that he often consulted USADA to check his program's adherence with the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

"The Panel has taken pains to note that [Salazar] made unintentional mistakes that violated the rules, apparently motivated by his desire to provide the very best results and training for athletes under his care," the decision stated. "Unfortunately, that desire clouded his judgment in some instances."

In a statement on Monday, Salazar said he would appeal the punishment.

"I have always ensured the WADA code is strictly followed. The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping," Salazar said. "I will appeal and look forward to this unfair and protracted process reaching the conclusion I know to be true."

USADA said that it relied on more than 2,000 exhibits between the two cases, and proceedings included nearly 5,800 pages of transcripts.

"The athletes in these cases found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. "While acting in connection with the Nike Oregon Project, Mr. Salazar and Dr. Brown demonstrated that winning was more important than the health and well-being of the athletes they were sworn to protect."

Before going into coaching, Salazar was a top-flight runner. He won the New York Marathon three times and the Boston Marathon once in the early 1980s.

The Brown decision includes text from a 2009 email exchange between Brown and Nike CEO Mark Parker concerning a "testosterone experiment'' Salazar conducted using his sons, in which they ran on a treadmill, had testosterone gel rubbed on their skin and then had their urine tested. When the experiment came to light four years ago, Salazar did not dispute it. He said it was done to determine how much gel would have to be used to sabotage one of his athletes through passing contact and to set up protocols to prevent that.

After Brown sent Parker a description of the experiment, Parker expressed curiosity about how much of the hormone would be needed to trigger a positive test, according to the text included in the panel's decision.

Salazar and Brown's legal defense was funded by Nike.

"Today's decision had nothing to do with administering banned substances to any Oregon Project athlete," Nike said in a statement to The Action Network. "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."

ESPN's Bonnie Ford and The Associated Press contributed to this report.