Key planks of Alberto Salazar’s impassioned defence against claims that he bent anti-doping laws are under strain after several witnesses disputed his version of events in his 11,750-word response to the BBC Panorama’s documentary.
The Guardian has also obtained emails that appear to contradict Salazar’s claims that he terminated the contract of his assistant coach, Steve Magness, because he was not good enough to train elite athletes. The emails, sent just a month before Magness left the Nike Oregon Project in June 2012, show Salazar was happy for Magness to lead sessions in a 10-day period while Salazar was away and to become the coach of the 3,000m steeplechaser Lindsay Allen.
It was Magness who made the most serious allegations against Salazar and Galen Rupp, the 10,000m silver medallist at London 2012 – including claims that Rupp had used testosterone as a 16-year-old and that Salazar had tested testosterone gel on his son, Alex, to see how much could be used without breaking anti-doping rules. But while the two men have fallen out spectacularly, emails sent in May 2012 suggest Salazar still respected and trusted his No2.
In one email, sent on 8 May, Salazar tells Magness: “I just spoke with Lindsay and I think that’s a great idea for you to take over her coaching. I was trying to move to that eventually but didn’t want Lindsay to think that I didn’t want to coach her. She needs to train with other top woman runners to fulfil her potential. With Tara [Erdmann] hopefully coming in you will have three women all training together. If you injure her, I will kill you. Ha ha! See you both on Friday.”
Salazar’s joke shows that he is a much more rounded character than his critics, who tend to focus on his intense, win-at-all-costs mentality, appreciated. At the same time, they call into question his account in his open letter in which he is deeply critical of Magness. In it he wrote: “Magness lacked the personality, inter-personal skills and drive to be able to coach elite athletes. He appeared to be intimidated by them and he retreated. He could not run a practice session by himself. He appeared to be unable to motivate the athletes as they ran or observe them. Ultimately, my top runners refused to work with him.”
But another email from Salazar in early May – which was sent to David Hendry, the strength and conditioning coach at the Nike Oregon Project, and Darren Treasure, the high performance sports consultant – told them: “I’m going to stay with Matthew [Centrowitz] in Portland and keep him motivated. Steve knows the guys good enough that I have complete confidence he’ll take care of all of them.”
As Magness said in a statement sent to the Guardian: “it seems strange that he would hand over his star athletes for 10 days leading up to the Olympic trials and say that he has ‘complete confidence’ in my ability to look after them if he felt what he now claims about my abilities as a coach. That doesn’t fit the narrative Salazar is currently attempting to weave.”
Meanwhile Dr Jeffrey Brown, the doctor who Salazar says carried out tests to ensure his athletes were not sabotaged by testosterone cream, also appeared to dispute his claims. In an interview with the US news website ProPublica, which cooperated with Panorama, Brown said he had not prescribed a controlled substance for Salazar’s sons or other research subjects as part of an experiment.
“No, absolutely not,” Brown said. “I didn’t do that, and would not do that. I would never do that.” He said that he was merely advising Salazar on how to conduct research on potential sabotage “in a hypothetical situation”. He said that Salazar’s exploration of potential testosterone sabotage was admirable.Brown also denied claims that he had prescribed the thyroid medication Cytomel to Kara Goucher in 2011 for her weight loss, telling ProPublica that while he could not discuss individual patients, “I would never, ever give somebody Cytomel for weight loss, ever”. The massage therapist John Stiner also insisted he was telling the truth when he revealed that Salazar had told him he was taking AndroGel, a banned testosterone gel, for his heart. Salazar had claimed that he told him it was for energy but Stiner told ProPublica: “I told 100% the truth. I’ll take 20 lie detector tests.Of course he said I’m lying.”
However Salazar received a glowing endorsement from Greg and Jamie Rupp, the parents of Galen Rupp, who said that he had been like “a second father” to their son. “I was very jealous of Alberto for a little while when Galen was in high school,” said Greg Rupp. “He would tell Galen to do something, and Galen would hop to it. But I couldn’t have picked a better role model for Galen to be involved with. Alberto is just a good person.”
They said that neither ProPublica nor the BBC attempted to contact them before publishing their allegations. “They were just such outrageous allegations, and baseless and just not true,” Jamie Rupp told the Oregonian. “For both of us, one of the hardest things to wrap our brains around is what would motivate people to make those allegations based on nothing.”
UK Athletics have not commented on the latest claims and Mo Farah, whom Salazar has coached since 2011, has also not spoken since releasing a statement on his Facebook page last week saying he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs.