The Alberto Salazar 1999 “Duke” Quote on It Being Difficult to Be Top Five in the World Without EPO and HGH

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by: Weldon Johnson, LetsRun.com
November 27, 2013

I want to address a couple of issues surrounding today’s quote of the day which is  from an article from UK writer James Fairbourn titled, “Careful what you wish for: Why getting into bed with Salazar mightn’t be such great news.”

The second half of the quote of the day references coach Alberto Salazar saying (more accurately writing) in 1999 to the Duke Law Review:

I believe that it is currently difficult to be among the top 5 in the world in any of the distance events without using EPO or Human Growth Hormone.”

Visitors to LetsRun.com love to point out that quote (click here for many of the examples), and then imply since Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, two Alberto Salazar coached athletes, got gold and silver at the 2012 Olympics, that they must be doping.

I want to correct the record on the second half of the quote, because I specifically asked Alberto Salazar about that quote at the 2012 Olympics.

Alberto Salazar Coaches Jordan Hasay and Tara Erdmann

Alberto Salazar

After the Olympic 10,000m final, when Mo and Galen went one-two, Alberto Salazar brought up doping in his post-race comments. In discussing why it took so long for a Westerner to medal in a distance event Alberto said, “I think a lot was psychological. I think Americans and Europeans just gave up. Another big problem I believe was there’s too many people who use the excuse of drugs, that anyone who runs fast is on drugs. The second you start thinking that as a coach or as an athlete you’re basically saying you’re not good enough to compete with other people unless you cheat. What I’ve always told our guys is ‘Don’t believe all that bull. Those are the losers that say that.’ Rather than trying to change their own training to get better they use that as excuse and it’s a defeatist attitude. A lot of the mind-set for us was ‘We can beat these guys. We’ve just got to train smart.'”

Since Alberto’s comments from after the 10,000m final in 2012:  “there’s too many people who use the excuse of drugs, that anyone who runs fast is on drugs” did not square with his comments from 1999: “I believe that it is currently difficult to be among the top 5 in the world in any of the distance events without using EPO or Human Growth Hormone,” a few days later at the Olympics, I asked Alberto specifically about the change in his comments at the Duke Law School in 1999 to the London Olympics in 2012.

Alberto pointed out that the anti-doping world had changed a lot in the thirteen years since 1999, and the testing was much better so clean athletes could compete in 2012.  In 1999, USADA did not even exist.  I don’t have Alberto’s direct words before me and we’re not allowed to publish audio or video from the Olympics so it’s not online, but I think I can go and find the audio from another computer and type them up. I did reference Alberto’s comments on the Duke paper in a message board post early this year.

Alberto’s explanation made sense to me and people are entitled to change their mind over a dozen years.

***Mary Slaney Take II

As for the first part of the post, Alberto was coaching Mary Slaney when she tested positive. That is a fact. It is entirely possible an athlete can test positive without their coach knowing what they are doing, but let us not deny the facts.

As for Mary, Mary’s supporters like to point out she did not test positive for a specific substance, but rather for a high T/E ratio and that she was cleared by USATF. Mary’s detractors, (put me in that group), point out that she was never cleared by the IAAF, and she has a formal doping conviction on her record. I’d also point out that USATF’s anti-doping was a joke in 1996. This was the pre USADA era as noted above.

I personally believe Mary was doping in 1996, but maybe I love to call her a cheat so much from 1996, because I also personally believe she also doped way before that in her career (when Alberto Salazar was not her coach) and don’t have the evidence to prove it. That’s my strong belief from talking to people of the era.

I would argue most of Mary’s supporters in 1996 are more interested in clearing her on a technicality, than finding the truth. Mary Slaney is no role model as she has an IAAF doping conviction on her record. LetsRun.com was critical earlier this month of Mary Cain for holding up Mary Slaney as a role model. It got to the point, where my wife, who follows the sport only from a distance, asked me “Are you pro Mary Cain or anti-Mary Cain?”. (For the record I think Mary Cain is one of the greatest things to happen to the sport). My wife pointed out Cain is 17 years old, and Cain could look up to the pig-tailed Slaney taking on the Russians, not the aging star busted for drugs.

I understand the point, but if I from a distance can conclude from talking to people of the Slaney era that she was a cheat, then  I think those who were closer to Slaney, should not let 17 year old Mary Cain hold up Slaney as a role model. The pig-tailed Slaney can be an inspiration, but Slaney the convicted doper, should not.

There is of course some possibility I could be wrong on Slaney, but I feel strongly I’m not, and I feel those closest to Slaney know I’m not wrong.

If anyone would like to talk on/or off the record about Mary Slaney email me @ [email protected]

More: *Alberto Salazar’s  Comments After Mo and Galen Go 1-2 at Olympics
*Duke Law School Comments 1999


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