Correction See Below: Sunday Times Says Alberto Salazar’s Group May Have Inadvertently Broken Anti-Doping Rules With L-Carnitine Injections

March 29, 2015

The Sunday Times of London has another article today on L-Carnitine injections and Alberto Salazar‘s Nike Oregon Project group. It is behind a paywall.

Last week the Times reported that Salazar ordered thousands of dollars of L-Carnitine for his athletes to use and experimented with injecting assistant coach Steve Magness with L-Carnitine.

We noted at the time this all appeared to be within World Anti-Doping rules as long as the injections of L-Carnitine were less than 50mL every 6 hours.

However, the Sunday Times is now reporting that Salazar may have inadvertently broken anti-doping rules because the 50mL limit was not implemented until January 2012 and some of his athletes got injections before then. Before 2012, the Sunday Times alleges that injecting any amount of L-Carnitine would have been an anti-doping violation.

Update 4/1/2015: WADA has issued the statement below saying that USADA did not give Alberto Salazar’s group bad advice by saying they could inject less than 50mL of L-Carnitine in December of 2011. The Times had implied that that was an inadvertent violation of doping rules as the Times thought the 50mL guideline did not go into effect until January 2012. The Times implied Alvina Begay and Dathan Ritzenhein may have broken anti-doping rules as a result. 

The WADA statement shows that injections of less than 50mL were allowed prior to January 2012. The January 2012 WADA changed “clarified and re-emphasized” that injections less than 50mL were allowed.

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The WADA statement: 

“An article in The Sunday Times (London) on Sunday, 29 March 2015, suggested that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Science Director gave inaccurate advice in December 2011 by stating that injections of up to 50 mL of a non-prohibited substance were permissible under the WADA Prohibited List.

We have now received the communications that took place between Alberto Salazar and the USADA Science Director during December 2011.

We can confirm that the advice given by the USADA Science Director was accurate and consistent with medical practice in place at the time.

The change to the List on 1 January 2012 clarified and re-emphasized the practice relating to infusions and injections to ensure that medical practice was clear in that injections / infusions less than 50ml, and not less than 6 hours apart were permitted. Infusions / injections above that amount or frequency are prohibited.”

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Salazar wrote USADA in 2011 asking if he could inject his athletes with L-Carnitine and apparently they told him he could as long as it was less than 50mL. Former Nike Oregon Project runner Jackie Areson claims that former Nike Oregon assistant coach Steve Magness told her that Dathan Ritzenhein and Alvina Begay traveled to Houston to get L-Carnitine injections before the January 2012 rule change. Technically this would be an ant-doping violation. The relevant portion of the Sunday Times article says:

Usada told Salazar that injections of less than 50ml over a six-hour period were permitted. The advice was based on a Wada document dated September 2011, which is understood not to have been formally ratified.

Within hours of being sent the reply by Usada, Salazar emailed several members of his team. “We will have to try the ‘less than 50ml L-carnitine infusion’,” he wrote.

In an email to Begay, Salazar said that he expected her and Dathan Ritzenhein, a long-distance runner in the Nike Oregon Project, to see “a two to three-minute advantage” when the L-carnitine supplement was used in conjunction with a sodium drink.

Ritzenhein said: “I have complied with all Wada rules, including my use of L-carnitine, which I tried but it did not provide any benefit so I stopped using it.”

Galen Rupp tells the Sunday Times he did not receive L-Carnitine injections in 2011 so the athletes who would have technically committed a doping violation appear to be Ritzenhein and Begay.

Almost as interesting to us is that Salazar thought L-Carnitine would help Dathan Ritzenhein improve 2-3 minutes in the marathon.

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