Monday, June 22, 2015

Salazar - Running Villain or Innovative Coach

Salazar's Rise to the Top

The 1982 Boston Marathon has been frozen in time as one of the great moments of US running History. In "Duel in the Sun," John Brandt describes the lives of Alberto Salazar, a hard-working Catholic boy and son of Cuban immigrants, and Dick Beardsley, a Minnesota farm-boy who would later develop an addiction to various pain medications.

While both athletes had their faults, I've always identified with Beardsley's vulnerability and honesty when describing his battles with addiction.

Both Bearsdley and Salazar found little success in the marathon following their 1982 duel,  but Salazar went on to make a name for himself winning the Comrades Marathon and coaching elite athletes for Nike's Oregon Project.

 Oregon Project's athletes speak out

Recently, Salazar has been accused of providing his athletes with performance enhancing drugs. Some of his athletes, including Kara Goucher, have denounced Salazar's training practices.

The alleged practices include providing runners with testosterone supplements and medications designed for thyroid disorders and asthma. Several runners have claimed that Salazar was doing so without their knowledge.

Propublica has an interesting article laying out the allegations in more detail.

After reading Salazar's book, "14 minutes ," I came away with the impression of Salazar as a very driven human being, but also arrogant and entitled--like his success was something he deserved (review here).

Though I like to assume positive intentions for all people, I can't help rooting against Salazar, which is unfortunate because I'm a big fan of some of his athletes. One of my favorite moments in sports was watching two of his athletes, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, finish first and second in the 2012 Olympics.

Salazar makes a nice villain for running, but it's hard to know how to cheer "against" him. I want his athletes to do well, but I want him out of the sport. What is an appropriate punishment for cheating in for running coaches? Fines? Bans? A demand for transparency?

I say all of the above, but the IOC and the USATF will be responsible for those decisions.

In the meantime, I'll continue to be a fan of the sport, while  routing for justice to be done. Bring on the bans, fines, and demand for information. Salazar needs to know he's not above the rules, and he doesn't have the right to the time and talents of Nike-sponsored athletes.

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