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TRACK AND FIELD

Former Boston Marathon champion Alberto Salazar gets lifetime ban for sexual, emotional misconduct

Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston Marathon champion, has been permanently banned by the US Center for SafeSport for sexual and emotional misconduct. Salazar has 10 days to appeal the decision.
Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston Marathon champion, has been permanently banned by the US Center for SafeSport for sexual and emotional misconduct. Salazar has 10 days to appeal the decision.Ryan Kang/AP/file

Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston Marathon champion from Wayland and once a prominent Nike coach of some of the world’s top distance runners, was permanently barred from participating in track and field Monday by the US Center for SafeSport, which cited Salazar for sexual and emotional misconduct.

Salazar, 62, has 10 business days to request an appeal through arbitration of the ruling made by SafeSport, a nonprofit founded in 2017 to protect athletes from sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

The decision Monday was the latest stage of a humiliating fall for Salazar, who was suspended for four years in September 2019 by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for violating rules governing banned substances. He is appealing that suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Swiss-based equivalent of a Supreme Court for international sports.

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The SafeSport charges were not detailed Monday. In January 2020, the organization temporarily barred Salazar from participating in track and field after elite female runners who formerly trained under him, including Mary Cain, Amy Yoder Begley and Kara Goucher, described what they said were years of psychological and verbal abuse by the coach.

Neither Salazar nor his lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment Monday. Salazar has previously denied all accusations of misconduct.

In a 2019 video produced by the Opinion department of The New York Times, Cain, a former high school phenom from New York who is now 25, accused Salazar of shaming her in front of others on the Nike Oregon Project team — which has since been disbanded — when she did not reach weight targets. She said that her low weight caused her to miss her period for three years, leading to lower levels of estrogen and five broken bones.

Cain also said that she had suicidal thoughts and had cut herself, but that no one at Nike “really did anything or said anything.”

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Yoder Begley, a 2008 Olympian, tweeted in 2019 that she was removed from the Oregon Project after a disappointing showing in the 10,000 meters at the 2011 United States track and field championships.

“I was told I was too fat and ‘had the biggest butt on the starting line,’ " Yoder Begley wrote.

Goucher, another American Olympian who once trained with the Nike Oregon Project, told The Times that after being cooked meager meals by an assistant coach, she often ate more in the privacy of her room, nervous that she would be heard opening the wrappers of energy bars she furtively consumed.

Salazar replied to Cain’s 2019 video in a statement to The Oregonian newspaper: “Neither of her parents nor Mary raised any of the issues that she now suggests occurred while I was coaching her. To be clear, I never encouraged her, or worse yet, shamed her, to maintain an unhealthy weight.”

Cain acknowledged at the time that she had sought to train again with Salazar, seeking an apology, closure and his approval. But she described their relationship as poisonous, saying, “I was the victim of an abusive system, an abusive man.”

Salazar told Sports Illustrated in 2019 that his “foremost goal” was to promote athletic performance in line with the good health and well-being of his athletes, but he acknowledged, “On occasion, I may have made comments that were callous or insensitive.”

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He apologized to any athletes hurt by his remarks, saying they were not intended to be distressing. But he added, “I do dispute, however, the notion that any athlete suffered any abuse or gender discrimination while running for the Oregon Project.”

Once a star runner himself, Salazar won the 1982 Boston Marathon and three consecutive New York City Marathons from 1980-82. At the height of his coaching prowess, he helped guide Mo Farah of Britain to gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at both the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Salazar’s top American star, Galen Rupp, took silver in the 10,000 meters at the London Olympics and a bronze in the marathon in Rio.

Another of Salazar’s former runners, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, is scheduled to make an unprecedented attempt to win the Olympic women’s 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters in Tokyo.

None of Salazar’s runners has tested positive for prohibited substances. His four-year suspension by USADA in 2019 stemmed from violations that included trafficking in testosterone, tampering with the doping control process and administering improper infusions of L-carnitine, a naturally occurring substance that converts fat into energy, the anti-doping agency said in a statement.

Born in Cuba, Salazar and his family eventually moved to Wayland, where he won the state individual championship in cross country in 1975. Salazar went on to an All-America career at Oregon, helping the Ducks to the NCAA cross country championship in 1977 and then winning the individual national title in 1978.

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In 1982, Salazar earned his only Boston Marathon victory in the “Duel in the Sun” with Dick Beardsley, winning by two seconds in what was then the fastest Boston ever run (2 hours, 8 minutes, 51 seconds). He was second in the marathon at the US Olympic Trials in 1984, and finished 15th that year at the Los Angeles Games.

Salazar also had a pair of victories in the 10,000 meters at the USA Track and Field Championships.