Athletics

Paula Radcliffe's Take On Alberto Salazar's Ban Was Car Crash TV

Paula Radcliffe's Take On Alberto Salazar's Ban Was Car Crash TV

At the conclusion of Gabby Logan and Paula Radcliffe's discussion about Alberto Salazar's four-year ban for doping violations, the producers of BBC's World Athletics Championships coverage must have thought the preceding eight minutes had not been the greatest idea.

The 61-year-old Salazar, head coach of the Nike Oregon Project, had been the subject of a four-year investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and was found guilty of "orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct". Specific violations include the trafficking of testosterone, administering a prohibited IV infusion and tampering with the doping control process.

Radcliffe's take on the situation was far from convincing. Really, it was weak. That she was chosen to talk about it in the first place was strange. There are conflicts of interest.

The marathon world record holder is an ambassador for Nike, the company which funds Salazar's training group. She is also the wife of Gary Lough, the current coach of Mo Farah.

Farah, who has always strongly denied any wrongdoing, is inextricably linked with Salazar. He was coached by him between 2011 and 2017, the most successful period of his career, one in which he won 5,000m and 10,000m golds at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

A sometimes flustered Radcliffe - at one point Logan had to interject as she struggled to find the right word - admitted that she had not yet read all of the 142-page report from USADA.

In what amounted to PR for Salazar, Radcliffe said that what he had been found guilty of was "overstepping that line".

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We've all talked about in the past about how Alberto, in particular, will push it right up to that line. He's been very conscious of trying to find out where the limits lie and how close he can push it to get those last little bits of gains to compete with athletes that, in his mind, in other parts of the world, are really cheating. He's overstepped that.

He probably should hold his hands up and say, 'I did, I overstepped. The rules were broken, I will now take the punishment for that'.

Because no athletes have been sanctioned, have real anti-doping [rules been] transgressed by athletes? I don't think so. Otherwise we would have seen athletes banned at this point."

The athletes themselves have done nothing wrong at this point.

She went on to suggest that USADA's motivation for the investigation was to mitigate the embarrassment of this summer's Christian Coleman debacle. Over the weekend, the American became 100m world champion but as late as last month there had been real doubt about whether or not he would be able to compete in Doha. Coleman missed three doping tests in a 12 month period, which could have seen him hit with a two-year ban, but he got off on a technicality.

USADA's investigation into Salazar began four years before they were forced to withdraw charges against Coleman. If this was a face-saving exercise, it was a remarkably far-sighted one.

"We talk about how long this investigation has gone on, how much money has gone into it, because people were waiting for something big," said Radcliffe.

"I think USADA thought it was something big, I think USADA are trying to maybe regain a little bit of face also for the Coleman fiasco and everything that's gone on.

"In going with this, they've maybe been thinking that it's something along the lines of a Lance Armstrong - which was huge.

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"This is bad, it's bad for the sport - it's good for the sport that it's been uncovered and that it's come out - but it is bad for the image of the sport."

Radcliffe concluded by wondering if the money spent on the Salazar investigation could have been better used elsewhere - in her mind, catching athletes who are doping. That overlooks that in catching coaches who are violating anti-doping regulations, whole cultures of cheating - ones which encompass numerous athletes - can be ended.

"This probably has dragged out too long," she said.

Aside from the rulings now, which I think was the right decision, the punishment that has been handed out - how much money has gone into this investigation over the last four to six years? How much went into the Coleman one? And how much has gone into research and development into anti-doping and into trying to improve the testing out there and doing something to really protect the clean athletes?

That's what really frustrates me, yet again USADA and UK Anti-Doping, the AIU (Athletics Integrity Unit), their job is to protect the clean athletes and to catch those athletes out there cheating.

Yes, this is a step forward, we've caught a coach who was cheating and overstepping the mark but we haven't caught any athletes and there's not that many being caught.

You can watch the whole mess below.

See Also: Monster Leap Wins Long Jump Gold For Jamaican At World Champs

PJ Browne
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