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Investigating Salazar | Mark Daly recounts his journalism that rocked Nike's flagship project

On Tuesday, Alberto Salazar – the former coach of Olympian champion Mo Farah, and the lead coac...



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Investigating Salazar | Mark Daly recounts his journalism that rocked Nike's flagship project

On Tuesday, Alberto Salazar – the former coach of Olympian champion Mo Farah, and the lead coach of the Nike Oregon Project –  was found guilty of doping violations and given a four-year ban from athletics. 

The news came, in no small part, as a result of the work of BBC Panorama and journalist Mark Daly whose documentary 'Catch Me If You Can' kickstarted the initial USADA investigation into Salazar four years ago.

Daly was on Tuesday's OTB AM to give the inside story of his reporting and explain how the case finally came to ban the former athlete turned acclaimed coach.

"In 2001, he persuaded Nike that he could end the track dominance of the East Africans if he was allowed to set up his Nike Oregon Project," Daly explained of the flagship Nike-Salazar partnership.

"At the end of the late noughties that started to bare real fruits. Mo Farah joined in 2011 and before long, medals on the world stage were flowing in."

It was in 2013, while Daly was investigating allegations of doping in athletics from the 1980s, that athletes and coaches kept urging him to investigate Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project.

"So we did that and ended up speaking to a large number of whistleblowers. These were former staff at the Oregon Project, these were former athletes, a former Oregon coach, Steve Magness.

"And what they did was paint a picture of this place that had a culture of coercion, secrecy, that banned substances were being used, banned methods were being used and that this was something that we really had to expose."

Even with the allegations and sources, Daly explained it was still difficult to get to a position where they were happy to broadcast when the potential liability, if they were wrong, was estimated as in the "high millions."

While there was never positive drug test to stand over, eventually Daly and Panorama felt confident enough in their sources to broadcast, immediately after which USADA announced they were investigating the allegations made.

"After the broadcast of the film, everything went a bit quiet and many people thought the whole investigation had gone away and it was only early this morning that I was able to reveal that actually Salazar and a Nike retained doctor, Jeffrey Brown, had been charged in early 2017," Daly told OTB AM.

When the charges were contested, the case went to an arbitration panel that only handed down its result to ban Salazar on Tuesday morning. Daly also explained some of the allegations and behaviours of Salazar that had been subject to both his and USADA's investigation.

"He had arranged for an experiment in which testosterone was rubbed on a couple of guinea pigs, who happened to be his sons, and it was effectively to try and work out how much testosterone would have to be applied before an athlete tested positive.

"Another principle allegation, that was not necessarily a doping violation but related to the culture of the organisation, was the prescribing of prescription medicines for athletes when there was no genuine medical need, in order to try and establish a performance boost."

As well as utilising prescription medicine such as sleeping pills, painkillers and "massive doses" of vitamin pills for his athletes it was also alleged that Salazar and the Oregon Project were using banned methods such as infusions and iv drips.

"These are medicines and methods that could be construed as harmful to a healthy person who didn't need that medicine.

"And while that didn't necessarily mean a doping violation, USADA felt very strongly that this was indicative of a culture in which performance was everything and health and safety of the athlete was a secondary consideration for the coaching staff."

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