Alberto Salazar (centre) celebrates with Galen Rupp (left) and Mo Farah (right) at the London 2012 OlympicsAlberto Salazar wanted to win almost at any cost.Once the most revered distance running coach in the world, his fall from grace has been spectacular. Salazar helped Sir Mo Farah become Britain’s most successful track athlete ever. Now he’s appealing against a four-year ban from athletics and his beloved Nike Oregon Project has been closed down.It all started to unravel for Salazar in 2015 when BBC Panorama and ProPublica exposed evidence of Salazar violating anti-doping rules, which eventually led to his ban from the sport. But as I’ve been discovering, the story doesn’t end there.Fresh questions over Farah’s relationship with Salazar
‘That was the culture’
Alberto Salazar (left) used to coach Kara Goucher (centre) and Adam Goucher (right)Kara and Adam Goucher joined the Oregon project in 2004. Kara, in particular, found success under Salazar, winning a silver medal in the 10,000m at the World Championships in 2007. But that success came at a price. Both Kara and Adam spoke to me for Panorama in 2015, then became witnesses for the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) against the coach they once revered.”It’s taken a huge toll on me,” said Kara. “Having to testify. We get the good news that he’s found guilty, then there’s still backlash and there’s stuff – it’s just never ending.”I don’t regret it, because the longer I stayed silent I was protecting their secrets and I was allowing it to continue.”Adam says he feels duped by Salazar: “I bought into his lies and I’m disappointed in myself for that. You know, I can look back and go, ‘What the hell? Why didn’t I just see through it?'”
As a marathon runner, Salazar was one of the most famous sportsmen in the US. His lifelong association with Nike was rewarded in 2001, when he was funded to create the world’s most elite distance running programme, the Nike Oregon Project (NOP). But some of his athletes now say he exercised complete control over them. Kara told Panorama: “He had total control of my life. Even to the point it was causing conflict between myself and my husband – whatever he asked me to do, I was going to do it.”Kara says her coach used sexually inappropriate language around her. “Stuff that no coach should ever be saying. It’s degrading. Specifically, for myself, after my son he was obsessed with the size of my breasts. And he would be talking about it openly in front of other people and making comments that were sexual in nature. It’s just inappropriate.”Asked if anyone ever spoke up against him, she said: “No, because that was the culture. You do not stand up to Alberto. If you do, you’re a negative person, you’re out.”Salazar is now facing allegations of misconduct from a second organisation, the US Centre for SafeSport, which investigates claims of emotional, physical and sexual misconduct in sport.He denies all allegations in relation to this.
Ari Lambie left Nike Oregon Project after only 18 monthsThere was another NOP athlete that I’d always wanted to speak to. Ari Lambie had been a promising college runner who joined NOP in 2008. Tipped as a future Olympian, she lasted only 18 months at NOP, disappeared from running and had never spoken publicly about it. Until now. She told Panorama that as soon as she arrived at NOP, alarms started ringing.”I was regularly expressing concern that we were putting my body at risk. He would repeatedly tell me, ‘You need to commit, you need to believe in this programme or I’m not going to coach you.'”Elite athletes have their health closely scrutinised and women often use birth control pills to regulate periods – but Lambie says Salazar and Dr Jeffrey Brown, who treated Salazar’s athletes, went too far.She says Salazar and Dr Brown changed her contraceptive pill to try to increase her blood volume and boost performance, with little regard for her health. “I was using one that would give me one period a month and they wanted me to try one that was one period every three months,” she said.Lambie said Salazar was overtraining her and, despite her warnings, she suffered from injury and fatigue. She said Salazar sent her to Dr Brown – to his office in Houston, Texas – where he put her on thyroid medication even though there was no medical need. Thyroid medication isn’t on the banned list although many anti-doping agencies, including the UK’s, would like it to be, because some athletes and coaches have abused it believing it can help burn fat quicker and boost performance. Sports endocrinologist Dr Nicky Keay told Panorama it was “conjecture” that thyroid drugs were a performance enhancer.She said: “The consequences of giving extra thyroid hormone – to someone whose thyroid gland is working perfectly normally – [is] going to put it out if its optimal functioning range and put the person at risk of other health issues.”Lambie’s thyroid levels were in the normal range, but she says she was “prescribed the full dose of thyroid [medication]”.”Within a few weeks I could feel jittery, I could feel my heart beating louder and faster, I was just uneasy – as tired or more t