At long last Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar has come out with his response to the allegations made by a joint BBC/Pro Publica investigation regarding performance enhancing drugs and the misuse of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) at the Nike Oregon Project. I urge you to read both David Epstein’s original investigative piece (linked above) and Alberto’s two-part rebuttal here and here.
But what has always been a head-scratcher to me as I followed the story over the last three weeks (and after knowing Alberto for most of our adult lives) was how so many people knew about the Androgel, the testosterone cream that was one of the main contentions of the investigation and follow up stories.
According to a Letsrun.com headline linking to a Daily Mail story out of England: “The AndroGel was so prevalent”
But that’s my point. Seems Alberto was telling anyone and everyone about it, not hiding it or making it all secret. He told massage therapist John Stiner to clean out the Park City, Utah apartment that the NOP team used as a high-altitude training camp, all the while knowing there were needles and vials and a tube of Androgel there? That is who you tell to clean up your drug pit, an independent contractor who is not in on the cabal?
Then, Salazar told another massage therapist who worked with the group, Allan Kupczak, not to let the athletes handle Al’s luggage because there was Androgen inside and he didn’t want to accidentally contaminate one of them. And finally, there was the story of Alberto’s son Alex testing the limits of Androgel to find out how much was needed to be rubbed on someone before triggering a positive drug test.
(Beyond whether it was ethical to conduct such testing) Alex was seemingly doing so out in the open without fear of being seen. Who didn’t know about it?
So if Al was the Mad Scientist smart enough to engineer the whole secretive PED micro-testing policy, which is essentially the accusation, then could he at the same time be such a knuckle head as to keep talking about it to everyone but his parish priest (the one guy who couldn’t say anything)? Who would tell a newly hired contractor not privy to the program to go clean out your drug stash in Utah? It only makes sense if you didn’t think you had anything to hide, because there was a plausible reason for the stuff to be there in the first place.
I guess you could say that even mad geniuses have their blind spots, but if USADA had been warned about Alberto by all the ex-athletes and staffers coming forward, and in the face of those warnings did nothing to sanction Salazar or Rupp or any of the other NOP athletes, then what lesson should we take from that?
USADA? Bueller? Bueller?
Alberto Salazar always strove for greatness as a runner. He took it too far with his own career in the 1980s, and paid a big price in terms of career length and lingering health issues. He took up coaching with the same fervor, but seemed to temper the mistakes of his past with his athletes at NOP.
It is true that Al has never been much of a Snuggle Bear (except to wife Molly). But only when irrefutable evidence is presented, and sanctions are imposed, will the vitriol surrounding this case to date smack of anything beyond a witch-hunt.