By Brian Homewood
DOHA (Reuters) – The athletics watchdog (AIU) will take a close interest in the 140-page report detailing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) decision to ban leading coach Alberto Salazar for four years, the sport’s global head Sebastian Coe said on Sunday.
USADA said Salazar’s punishment was for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” as head coach of the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), a camp designed primarily to develop U.S. endurance athletes.
American Salazar has denied any wrongdoing and said he would appeal while Nike has said it will stand by him.
Nike has denied any role in administering performance-enhancing drugs and said in a statement on Tuesday that it does not condone the use of banned substances.
“We have the AIU (Athletics Integrity Unit), it clearly will take a big interest in the findings from USADA,” said Coe, who is president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, adding he had not read the whole report himself.
“I am entirely comfortable and very confident that the AIU will want to look at the whole case and want to think about the implications.”
The IAAF’s efforts to separate itself from anti-doping and corruption and rebuild athlete and fan confidence in the sport led to the setting up of the AIU in 2017.
“The AIU are permanently vigilant and there are tests that are intelligence-led,” said Coe. “It is important that the unit is given the opportunity and the time to be vigilant and acts when it needs, but we also have to be protective of athletes’ reputations, so it needs a sensible proportion of balance.”
Several athletes participating at the world athletics championships in Doha, which finished on Sunday, train with the Nike Oregon Project, including gold medallists Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Donavan Brazier of the U.S.
There has been no suggestion of any wrongdoing by 1,500 and 10,000 metres world champion Hassan or 800m winner Brazier.
But Coe said it was inevitable there would be speculation around the performances of Hassan after her unique double.
“Sadly, it is the world we live in,” he said. “It is inevitable that outstanding performance, given the nature of trust, is permanently in question. I think we have to be careful about how we draw judgement on the performance.”
After her 1,500m triumph on Saturday, Hassan said she was winning races well before she joined the NOP in 2016.
“It was a very tough week and I had a lot of things in my head but I have a good manager and he really supported me,” Hassan said. “I show the world I am a clean athlete.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)