Ever since the BBC and ProPublica released a series of stories earlier this month alleging that Alberto Salazar authorized the use of performance-enhancing drugs with his athletes in the Nike Oregon Project, the coach and one of his most famous runners, Olympic silver medalist and American record holder in the 10,000m Galen Rupp, have drawn sharp scrutiny. But Salazar has said little in response — until now.
In a stern, unequivocal 28-page open letter published Wednesday morning on the project's website, Salazar flatly denies that he or his athletes have ever used such substances. "At best they are misinformed," Salazar writes of the runners, coaches, contractors, and journalists behind the allegations. "At worst, they are lying."
To support this defense, Salazar goes on to share dozens of contemporaneous email correspondences, medical records, and additional "exhibits" in a thorough, if not always convincing, rebuttal to the allegations. Here are the letter's eight key takeaways.
1. Galen Rupp has asthma and hypothyroidism, and he receives medication for both. Salazar writes that these medications are legal and administered only when needed, adding that claims that Rupp has been continuously taking prednisone — a steroid — for the past 14 years "are absolutely false."
2. Salazar further claims that the so-called "evidence" against him and Rupp has been misconstrued. In 2011, for instance, he hid cold medicine in the pages of a magazine and a bottle of Nasonex inside a book, by cutting a bottle-sized compartment into the book's pages, and overnighted them to Rupp in the UK. "You went all Shawshank Redemption on that book and nasal spray," Rupp emailed Salazar when he received the package. "I loved it!" Salazar writes that he only smuggled the medicine to Rupp so they would clear customs more quickly. One of Salazar's assistant coaches who was with Rupp at the time, Steve Magness, would later claim that he was "confused" about what Rupp had received in that package, but also that he "never asked" what the medicine was.
3. Salazar suggests that his accusers, including Magness, have personal vendettas against him. The two main sources in the BBC/ProPublica stories are the Olympic bronze medalist Kara Goucher, who left the project on apparently good terms in 2011 after seven years with Salazar, and Magness, whose contract was terminated in 2012 due to poor performance. Salazar claims that his relationship with Goucher became strained after his relationship with her husband, Adam, had soured, while Magness is bitter about being fired.
4. A secondary source named John Stiner, a massage therapist who told BBC/ProPublica that in 2008 Salazar requested a testosterone-boosting drug, Androgel, and an over-the-counter "sexual enhancement" supplement called Alpha Male. Salazar claims that the Androgel was his, that he has a prescription for it, and that he uses it because of damage caused by his excessive training in the 1980s, including diminished gonad function. Regarding Alpha Male, Salazar simply notes that the substance is legal.
5. Finally, Salazar notes that the third source in the BBC/ProPublica stories is not only anonymous, but that his claims include recommendations made in 2007 by a now-deceased doctor that the source take testosterone to improve his performance, with Salazar's full support. Salazar describes the allegation as "completely contrary" to his experience with the doctor and insists that neither he, nor the doctor, nor anyone else ever associated with the Oregon Project has ever or will ever "condone the use of any banned substance."
6. The BBC/ProPublica stories claim that some Oregon Project runners joked that speed was only one prerequisite for joining the team — "you also had to have a prescription for thyroid hormone and asthma medication." Salazar counters that of the 55 athletes he has coached throughout his career, only five have had hypothyroidism and eight have had exercise-induced asthma. Among those athletes are Rupp and Kara Goucher. While Salazar insists that Rupp and Goucher's medications are legal under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, Goucher now claims that Salazar encouraged the use of medications not allowed by WADA.
7. Goucher further claims that Salazar was unhappy with her weight following the birth of her son, in 2010, and that he told her to take Cytomel, a thyroid medication, to expedite post-pregnancy weight loss. On the contrary, Salazar writes that he was "thrilled" with her weight and body composition in early 2011, describing her as "rock-hard everywhere" and ready to "take the pounding of a marathon better than any other runners."
8. Ending on an optimistic note, Salazar writes that he and his runners will "keep winning through hard work, dedication, and fair play."