New York City 1981
New York City 1981

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 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.


33 thoughts on “SALAZAR FIRES BACK

  1. Toni, we’re going to have a long talk at the Crow’s Nest in Falmouth. You are invited to bring anyone you want to witness the discussion. There will be no witches in attendance.

    Alberto did nothing to acquit himself at all. In fact he engaged in exactly the same manner in which you are accusing the whistleblowers of doing.

    See you at Falmouth.

  2. I don’t think you are really impartial seeing you have “known him your whole adult life”. Certainly you have to admit this is much like the Lance issue. People knew about the problems at the time, then later reported it. Magness didn’t wait until now to contact the proper authorities, I believe the BBC/ProRepublica piece pointed this out. It is only coming to light because of the documentary.

    My opinion is It seems unlikely that Salazar would have a legitimate Androgel prescription as it would not be recommended for someone with a heart condition. He was not open about testing it on Alex. This is something Magness brought out. Also, isn’t it plausible that an intelligent person who have a back story as to why they have a prescription for Androgel in case something like this happens. But who knew really that he had the prescription before it was reported he contacted the massage therapist to have it sent to him? The reality is, if it were his prescription, it would likely be easier to just get more than have the expense of having it shipped.

    With all the allegations from over 17 people, it seems unlikely to me that he would be completely innocent of everything. Does this mean he would be guilty of violating USADA or WADA regulations? That remains to be seen.

  3. Pro Publica released a response to Alberto’s rebuttal, the AP just announced that USADA has launched a formal investigation into the NOP. This is far from over. Dr. Brown’s and Salazar’s testimony don’t match and medical ethics were breached by testing his own son’s illegal substances….which would have required a prescription. Who then prescribed and did they know it was for an experiment? Emails between Alberto and Dr. Brown indicate they were both involved and aware of the expiriment on his sons. Some of the more interesting allegations Salazar did nothing to respond to (Fleshman). There is potentially a lot of bias in this close nit running community both ways in terms of the media and reporters due to several people knowing each other personally.

  4. I’m a long time admirer of Tom Brady, but I’m supposed to believe that a couple of low level equipment managers altered footballs, without his knowledge, in a playoff game. Otherwise I’m a hater. As a long time admirer of Alberto Salazar, who is deeply concerned about what I see as a cynical approach of “pushing the boundaries” of pharmaceuticals, I’m now a hater.

    Sorry, that sort of dismissiveness of reasonably concerned fans is what allows this sort of problem to persist. Kara (and Adam), Lauren, Magness, many others, were clearly uncomfortable with the approach, and were fearful of taking on the 500 pound gorilla, so they just quietly went away. And now we see why they were fearful.

    You hide behind Occam’s Razor, claiming _your_ particular explanation is “the” simplest, and therefore, the correct one. As always in something like this, there will be conflicting, confusing information that will give someone the opportunity to choose whichever outcome they wish. But here’s mine, from a distance: Salazar is pushing the bounds of legalities, ethics, and morals, of what is supposed to be a pure _sport_. Call me a hater, call me naive, and call me a former fan.

    1. I really don’t want to get into this online (frankly scary how many nutters this topic attracts) but have to applaud Rico’s comment and say those that support Salazar (Good intentions aside) so fully that they ignore common sense are doing him and our sport more harm than good.

    2. Rico,

      I can’t say your logic is faulty. This really is a spinning prism emitting and restricting light with every turn. I admit my view is one that comes from a base of long friendship, and so I’m putting that perspective on my reading of the “facts”.

      Perhaps this is why I, too, so enjoy the high school version of our sport, like last weeks Brooks PR invitational and New Balance Outdoor Natls, there seems to be a purity there that money hasn’t yet tainted.

      As long as we are dealing with humans, we will have to contend with all the frailties that come with that status. And if history has taught us anything, it certainly has taught us to doubt. Let’s see where this thing finally takes us. again thanks for writing.

  5. I’m hoping Mr. Salazar didn’t break any rules or fake any TUE, but I had the same hopes for Lance Armstrong. And Tyson Gay; And Mary Decker-Slaney;
    And Regina Jacobs. Seems like there are a lot of witches to hunt!

    Should we be surprised though? Wasn’t there a survey done a few Olympics ago where over half the athletes responding said they would take performance enhancing drugs that would shorten their lives but garner them a gold medal?

    I’ve given up on pro track & field and running. I’d much rather go watch a high school meet or DIII collegiate meet. Just as much passion and excitement, but the athletes are clean and aren’t nearly as self-absorbed as the pros.

  6. I don’t know if “witch-hunt” is the right word here. I don’t see Salazar as a hapless spinster being harassed by the powerful judges Magness and the Gouchers. More likely it is Salazar that going on a “witch-hunt” by striking back with personal attacks on those who don’t agree with his “win at all cost” training approach. You can agree or disagree with this but it’s a bit harsh to doubt the whistle blowers in this case and say they are on a “witch-hunt”.

    1. Scott, I didn’t mean to imply by witch-hunt to include the initial accusers who were close to the situation and had legitimate concerns which they brought forward and which Alberto had now responded to.

      I just think the entire tenor of the attacks on Alberto in all the follow up has been quite vitriolic, and so, too, the personal attack by Alberto on Steve Magness isnt helpful either. It would be better if we all just stuck with the facts, because In the end the rest of the sporting world just keeps passing us by as we continue to savage one another.

      1. Thanks for saying that Tony. I see where you are coming from. Keep up the good work.

      2. Alberto’s comments on why Magness was let go were more brass tack facts than attacks. Magness risked going against the spirit of a typical nice exit agreement document, and probably shot himself in the foot. Magness is rightly called out by Salazar for taking and keeping pictures of a private medical document, for failing to clear up a notation on that record with the doctor who made it. It’s like Magness believed message board libel and smears and decided to keep a few things to some day use for profit of some sort. Violation of Rupp’s private medical records for sure. I hope he is sued for invasion of privacy. Dysfunction and dishonesty, by Magness.

  7. “Multiple, credible witnesses” like whoever it was that wished to remain anonymous (in which case what he had to say should never ever have been published) that when Salazar had him take thyroid medication even though he wasn’t hypothyroid he almost immediately felt something, got a buzz as if he had been given an upper and said that “he felt he had been doping.” Bull fricking shit! (I would have typed the other “f” word but didn’t think it would be appropriate.) I’ve been on thyroid medication for hypothyroidism for over a decade. Thyroid medication is very very slow acting, which is why when you first go on it, you don’t have a blood draw to see how you’re reacting to the dosage until six to eight weeks later. And if and when the dosage changes, you get tested every six to eight weeks. Thyroid medication is not an upper, it does not cause an instantaneous reaction. Whoever this anonymous source is, is a liar. But sadly, the media and some in the running community (those who never liked Salazar and couldn’t wait to take him down) smelled blood in the water and started circling. And meanwhile, in the running world that has become as pathetic a circus as the Republicans running for president, Dennis Mitchell is the USA relays coach. No wonder this sport is, as you so eloquently put it Toni, “going down the crapper.”

  8. I think calling it a “witch hunt” is unfair. A witch hunt implies a personal or political agenda, which no one but Alberto is alleging. Although there does not seem to be any hard evidence, there do seem to be some legitimate concerns, offered by multiple credible witnesses, that should at least merit a more serious and thoughtful – and less passive-aggressive – response than the one offered by Alberto. If he is innocent then he should be able to present his evidence without attacking his accusers on a personal level.

    1. I wrote my comment before reading yours Greg but glad someone else is saying what is obvious in this case.

    2. Uhm, sorry, George Malley, has been poisoning Weldon and Robert Johnson of Let’ for over a decade with lies and smears and a vendetta. That is public record over there. It’s an internet slime fest witch hunt of the lowest order. You don’t know, because you have been too classy to read that sites cesspool message boards.

  9. You must be an honest man, because you’re not thinking like a cheater might.

    If I were a coach with a legitimate prescription for Androgel, of course I wouldn’t hide my “stash.” If I was also intent on microdosing my athletes with testosterone or one of its synthetic analogs, and wanted to create a veneer of legitimacy in the event of any future positive tests, I (on an especially creative day, at least) would come up with some claim along the lines of, “What if someone sneaks up and slathers me with T-cream?!” and say I had gone out of my way to learn how much of the stuff would trigger a positive.

    Couple things, though. POne, I don’t think Salazar was as open about using Alex as a guinea pig as you seem to think; wasn’t this one of the things Magness disclosed? And two…really? He’s afraid of someone scampering up to one of his runners in public and coating him with enough T-cream to trigger a positive? He cites the Gatlin example as a rationale, but remember, Chris Whetstine was notoriously scapegoated in that instance by, among others, track and field persona non grata Trevor Graham.

    So, while Salazar may somehow ultimately clear himself, this doesn’t seem to be an avenue by which it will legitimately occur.

    1. Kemble,

      thanks for chiming in. I think the Salazar situation is a lot like the Tom Brady situation. if you think he is guilty no amount of evidence is going to change your mind.

      The middleman in all of this, the party that needs to stand up and make a statement, is USADA. You would figure that both sides would believe them, unless the haters think that Nike has bought them off too.

      1. Toni,

        I don’t think Salazar is guilty of wrondoing on the basis of the “sabotage” section in his later, goofy though it may seem. I do think he’s done an inadequate job of explaining away the various things he’s been accused of, but perhaps in time he will.

        Time to focus instead on the U.S. Champs!

    2. Occam’s Razor answers a lot of life’s quandaries. The principle states that among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

      that’s why conspiracy theories are hard to follow to conclusion. conspiracy is too complicated. people can’t pull it off. Thus, believe the simplest least complicated explanation.

      1. Greg,

        I agree that ad hominem attacks are are not appropriate. There needs to be an impartial arbiter, God only knows who that would be.

    3. You don’t have to think like a cheater to pack safely. A massively frequent traveler like Salazar could easily get complacent, forgetful etc. Or, fearing theft, could have been more careful. I can’t afford to leave my medications behind, so I guard them like you think a drug cheat might.

  10. I pretty much read the whole thing the same way Toni wrote this article-seems pretty weird if he was doing all this-with the the knowledge all these people knew out in the open…all the sudden all these people come out when the article comes out. If, Magness went to WADA right after he left why is it only now he comes forward with all this.
    I really need hard proof, not just I saw, he saw, they said.

  11. Now this witch hunt can end. This whole scenario has been ridiculous. As a coach I hope my former athletes never turn on me.

    1. Toya, hopefully your former athletes won’t ever be threatened or intimidated by you. Hopefully you’ll conduct yourself in a professional and grownup manner and never throw public tantrums at track meets.

  12. Ive always believed Alberto;knew him as a youth,and as he came up..and raced him a lot…very ,very honest person!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Will-Ha. It is a cruel world, and people can be very hurtful. I hope USADA steps up and makes a statement of some sort. I know it’s not their policy, but when the whole sport is going down the crapper, perhaps they can make an exception. Health of the sport seems to be their primary charge.

  13. If Salazar in innocent he would be the first in a long list of notable athletes and coaches outed..

  14. Thank you Toni, as always, great comments. Let’s hope a report by USADA brings an end to all allegations.

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