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WHEN Professor Paul Greenhaff saw the results of more than 20 years of painstaking research, he felt a rush of excitement.
Laid out before the bespectacled Nottingham University academic was data from a sixmonth research study showing that the performances of amateur athletes who had taken NutraMet Sport, his new supplement, had increased by an average of 11%.
After the results were peerreviewed and published in The Journal of Physiology in January 2011, Greenhaff's team received an order for 180 cartons of the supplement, each containing 14 sachets of the powder, at a cost of Pounds 3,600.
The order was made in the name of Alberto Salazar, a respected athletics coach and the head of the Nike Oregon Project.
At the time, Salazar was recruiting Mo Farah, by then the reigning European champion at 5,000m, to his stable of athletes.
Farah, who had moved to Britain from Somalia at the age of eight, had set his sights on winning Olympic gold in the capital of his adopted country.
"I've made a big decision to move forward in my career," he said, explaining his decision to uproot his family for the move to America.
"Last year was a great year for me and, if I'm ever going to get close to a medal in a world champs or Olympics in 2012, something needed to change a little bit. I believe [Salazar] can just make that 1-2% difference to get close to a medal."
Despite his fun-loving character -- he later created the "Mobot" celebration pose -- Farah thrived under Salazar's strict regime. He pounded the two-mile wood-chip track at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, near Portland, and absorbed his coach's advice.
Describing his approach, Salazar said: "It's like in war. The soldier has to learn how to fight and do everything -- be physically fit, be a one-man army. But then you try and equip him with every bit of top science -- everything you can -- to keep him alive. That's what we do."
"Every bit of science" included the use of legal supplements, and Salazar was intrigued when a former senior member of Nike's research and development team mentioned Greenhaff's research in 2010.
Before joining Nike the insider, who asked not to be named, claims to have given a drink containing Greenhaff's recipe -- a mixture of the naturally occurring compound L-carnitine and carbohydrate -- to a "world-class British sportsman" and had seen "amazing" results.
It appeared to the insider that Greenhaff had developed a legal sports drink that could increase carnitine content in muscles.
This can result in the body storing up glycogen, which acts like the body's battery, for periods of high-intensity activity. It reduces the build-up of lactic acid, which protects the body from overexertion. Such effects would be particularly useful to endurance athletes.
Greenhaff's tests showed that such effects could be achieved by taking the drink twice a day for 3-6 months.
The order for Salazar in January 2011 was followed by a second shipment in March 2012. They are understood to be the only shipments of NutraMet Sport made by Greenhaff's team.
Salazar last week confirmed "a few" of the athletes on the Nike Oregon Project had used the supplement but that it had provided "no benefit" and was no longer used. He declined to say when the supplement had been used and by whom.
Farah, who secured gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at London 2012, said he had used "a legal energy drink containing L-carnitine" but "saw no benefit" and gained weight.
He said he no longer used the supplement and had not done so during London 2012. However, he declined to say when he had used it.
Galen Rupp, Farah's training partner who won silver in the 10,000m at London 2012, said he had "briefly" tried supplement containing L-carnitine "a few years ago" but no longer used it.
He also declined to say when he had taken the supplement and, in a statement, said: "I have worked and trained hard for over 15 years to get where I am today."
British Athletics, the sport's governing body in the UK, said "a small number of British athletes" have taken L-carnitine in recent years but refused to name them.
"L-carnitine is a legal and scientifically legitimate supplement that can be used by endurance athletes," it said. "To our knowledge, all doses administered and methods of administration have been fully in accordance with [World Anti-Doping Agency] approved protocol and guidelines."
While Salazar says the supplement was of "no benefit", members of the Nike Oregon Project say he was initially "excited" by its potential.
Allan Kupczak, a former team therapist, claims Salazar told him how he had been alerted to a legal L-carnitine supplement that was claimed to have significantly improved the performance of a prominent British cyclist. Kupczak claims Salazar pondered aloud about giving it to Farah and Rupp. Salazar did not respond to a request to comment on Kupczak's claims.
It is not known if Farah was taking -- or was given -- a supplement containing L-carnitine at that time.
After winning gold at the World Championships in South Korea in the summer of 2011, Farah said: "It's been hard work and a lot of sacrifices." Days before, he had won silver in the 10,000m.
In October 2011, Greenhaff says he was asked by a member of the Nike Oregon Project whether the "rate of loading" of the L-carnitine could be increased.
Greenhaff knew it could.
Previous research had shown the carnitine uptake to muscle could be achieved in as little as five hours by infusing the supplement into the body using an intravenous drip.
Weeks later, The Sunday Times understands, Steve Magness, a scientific advisor and assistant coach at the Nike Oregon Project as well as an athlete at the time, was given three injections of L-carnitine over two hours to see whether a performance uplift could be secured within hours rather than months.
Dr Jeffrey Brown, a former paid medical consultant to the Nike Oregon Project, said he had carried out experiments involving L-carnitine injections with permission from the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
A spokesman for the agency said: "USADA did not give anybody approval to conduct experiments on athletes. USADA's response to any inquiry about injections would be to point the individual to the WADA rules."
Brown declined to confirm whether the L-carnitine experiments were conducted on Nike Oregon Project athletes.
"If any of those people were patients, I couldn't talk, it's against the law for me to talk," he said.
After the injections, Magness is understood to have taken part in five days of treadmill tests. His performance had improved by 8-9%.
It is believed Magness reluctantly agreed to having the injections and felt he was being used as "a guinea pig". When he saw his subsequent performance results, he is understood to have withdrawn from competition for nine months to avoid having any benefit over other competitors.
Jackie Areson, an American athlete who trained with the Nike Oregon Project at the time, began using the L-carnitine supplement on a daily basis in late 2011.
Areson, who now lives on the Gold Coast in Australia, told The Sunday Times how the success of the L-carnitine injection experiment on Magness triggered excitement in Oregon, with some referring to the procedure as a "goldmine".
She says that she and Magness had discussed her taking the supplement by injection but had eventually decided against it.
"Typically, athletes would mix our own L-carnitine drinks using the ingredients supplied to us," she said. "The standard dosage of L-carnitine ... was to take two L-carnitine drinks per day."
In February 2012, Magness sent Greenhaff an email in which he reported "good gains" and "nice improvements" in the performances of some athletes at the Nike Oregon Project.
There is no evidence that Farah was -- or has ever been -- given injections of L-carnitine, or that Nike was aware of the use of L-carnitine, taken either orally or by injection.
A fortnight after Magness's email to Greenhaff, a second order for NutraMet Sport was made in Salazar's name. Magness left the Nike Oregon Project shortly before the London 2012 Olympics.
Coach who made Mo Before the start of the 1980 New York marathon, Alberto Salazar, a student at Oregon University, said he expected to win and in record time. Not only did Salazar win the race, he repeated the feat in the next two years.
Although never a natural athlete, Salazar had a raw determination that he took into coaching when he was forced to retire for health reasons.
He has been credited with helping to turn Mo Farah into an Olympic and world champion. The Nike Oregon Project was created at Salazar's suggestion in 2001 with the aim of making the American runner Galen Rupp a world champion. Farah joined in 2011.
Salazar, 56, applies psychology and science to his training methods, analysing athletes' blood samples and trying new supplements and vitamins. In 2013 he was awarded the International Association of Athletics Federations' coaching achievement award.
AFTER INJECTIONS, MAGNESS'S PERFORMANCE HAD IMPROVED BY 8-9%
Credit: George Arbuthnott and Iain Dey
Caption: Alberto Salazar, top, with Galen Rupp and Mo Farah, ordered a legal supplement developed by Paul Greenhaff, centre. Steve Magness, far left, and Jackie Areson, right, also tried the supplement; MICHAEL STEELE/TERTIUS PICKARD