Alberto Salazar, renowned running coach who helped top Americans be more competitive in athletics before he was suspended for doping violations He was banned from sports for life last month. According to a summary of the decision reviewed by The New York Times, after a referee determined that he was more likely than not to have sexually assaulted an athlete on two different occasions.
The lawsuit against Salazar was followed by the United States SafeSport Center, an organization that investigates reports of abuse in Olympic sports. SafeSport led Salazar Permanently ineligible in July 2021found that he committed four violations, including double-fingering a runner while performing an athletic massage.
Salazar requested an arbitration hearing, in which he denied the charges and said he did not speak or meet with the runner on the days in question. The referee found Salazar’s explanation unconvincing and accepted his accuser’s interpretation of events.
The hitherto unreported details of the decision shed new light on why Salazar, a powerful figure in elite running, was specifically banned from the sport. Some runners have publicly accused him of verbally and emotionally abusive bullying and behavior, but the physical assault charges have not been made public. Salazar was never charged in connection with these allegations.
The decision also has implications for SafeSport and its mission to deter abuse in sport, which has been heavily criticized since its founding six years ago.
The document, which summarizes the referee’s reasoning for the US Athletics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee to issue a lifetime ban, does not include the name accusing Salazar. It provides sufficient detail to identify the individual, describing the athlete’s relationship with Salazar and giving details of the alleged events. The Times, which often does not identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, refuses to publish these and other identifying details.
The person who accused Salazar did not respond to messages seeking comment for this article.
In an email, Salazar said he “never made any inappropriate sexual contact or sexual harassment.”
“Sexual misconduct completely contradicts who I am as a person,” she wrote. “As a devoted husband, father, and human being, I personally find any form of sexual abuse of another person disgusting and going against everything I believe in. My heart goes out to victims of sexual abuse, but I have never committed such abuse in this situation.”
Salazar wrote that the SafeSport process was unfair and “lack of due process protection” and that there would have been a different outcome if there had been a “full and fair trial”. He also said he wanted to provide more information about the “falsity of allegations” but was constrained by SafeSport’s privacy rules.
Those who attend SafeSport cases are generally allowed to talk about their experiences, but are limited when it comes to disclosing details about their cases.
For nearly two decades until 2019, 63-year-old Salazar was the highest profile coach of the Nike Oregon Project, a running group funded by the sneaker and apparel giant and set out from Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. and international distance runners trained by Salazar at the Oregon Project.
Before that, Salazar was a Nike marketing executive and one of the best marathoners in the world. He won the New York City Marathon three times and the Boston Marathon once in the early 1980s, but his career stalled when he was in his mid-20s.
Salazar’s coaching career collapsed in 2019. banned from athletics for four years for doping violations Use of prescription drugs other than their intended use and tampering with the doping control process. Salazar has appealed his case twice, and after a long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Court of Arbitration for Sports Approved the ban in September.
Shortly after Salazar was banned, some of the runners he coached made public their negative experiences with him. Mary Cain said Salazar embarrassed him for his weight in front of other Oregon Project team members and Amy Yoder Begley said Salazar told him he kicked him off the team for having “the biggest butt on the starting line”.
Salazar said none of the runners had suffered harassment or gender discrimination under his coaching, but acknowledged that he may have made “emotionless or insensitive comments”.
Nike, which stood by Salazar when he was accused of doping and even financed his expensive legal fees for the case, soon gave up his support. Nike employees marched at company headquarters In protest of his support for Salazar, the Oregon Project was shut down. Last year, Nike renamed a building on its campus called Salazar.
Nike did not respond to questions about whether Salazar’s allegations of misconduct were reported to the company or whether it was investigating the company’s behavior. Nike said in a statement that Salazar is no longer a contract coach and that SafeSport’s decision makes it “appropriate” to remove his name from the building.
SafeSport was investigating allegations against him as Nike’s relationship with Salazar was re-examined.
SafeSport has been responsible for investigating abuse in amateur and Olympic sports since it was created by the USOPC in 2016 and codified by Congress next yearafter hundreds of gymnasts were harassed by Lawrence G. Nassar and USA Gymnastics failed to properly investigate the charges.
The Salazar case is arguably the most high-profile issue SafeSport has followed. Confirmation of his decision can help establish his credibility and signal his willingness to take on strong figures, just as his profile has risen following the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into the cyclist. Lance Armstrong ten years ago. But SafeSport publishes few details about its decisions or the evidence it collects, which has led some observers in Salazar’s case to believe he was banned for life due to verbal comments.
SafeSport has been heavily criticized for its mission and process. Victims of abuse and advocates of SafeSport investigates cases very slowly and leaves them in the dark and not really independent and remove blame from national governing bodies and Some of those accused of USOPC abuse complained that SafeSport investigations lacked due process and the cost of building a solid defense could be high.
SafeSport declined to comment privately on its lawsuit against Salazar. But in response to questions about the organization, its CEO, Ju’Riese Colón, wrote in an email that “the process needed touches every aspect of our response and resolution system.” Colón added that there is room for improvement in researching matters quickly, but adding that “there is no good way to rush traumatic and highly complex issues.”
Salazar was the first Add to SafeSport’s temporarily banned list in January 2020. He was permanently suspended in July 2021 for the reasons listed, both emotional and sexual misconduct.
At the beginning of December, he requested an arbitration hearing from JAMS, a dispute resolution company, which was overheard by an arbitrator over three days via video conference. Both Salazar and SafeSport were allowed to present evidence and witnesses and cross-examine each other’s witnesses. The standard of evidence used in SafeSport hearings is preponderance of evidence, similar to civil cases in the United States, and a lower threshold than the standard used in US criminal cases where crime is established if the evidence goes beyond reasonable doubt.
SafeSport has issued a notice of the findings, including four SafeSport rule violations, three of which were refereed and one not, which resulted in Salazar’s permanent dismissal.
The three continued violations included two charges of physical assault, as well as sexually inappropriate comments and actions by Salazar towards the runner.
The fourth violation, found by SafeSport to make inappropriate comments about Salazar’s weight and body shape of another runner, was not sustained by the referee. The referee criticized Salazar’s comments, but said they were not made “with the intent of disrespect or humiliation” and therefore his comments did not violate USA Track & Field’s code of conduct.