Doping allegations against coach Alberto Salazar and his top US runner, 2012 London Olympic 10,000-meter runner-up Galen Rupp, loom large as the US Track and Field Championships begin Thursday.
Athletes will be competing for spots on the US squad that will compete at the world championships in August at Beijing, with Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin — two sprint stars who have served doping bans — battling to position themselves to challenge defending champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica for 100 and 200 world titles in China in two months.
A BBC documentary earlier this month in collaboration with the ProPublica website accused Salazar, also the coach of British 10,000 Olympic champion Mo Farah, of violating anti-doping rules, with claims Salazar doped Rupp in 2002 with the anabolic steroid testosterone when Rupp was only 16.
Salazar, based at the Nike camp in nearby Portland, was worked with Rupp for 14 years and his training partner Farah since 2011.
The report says Salazar encouraged using prescription medications for thyroid and asthma that were not needed for a competitive edge and abuse of the therapeutic use exemption rule where athletes can get approval to utilize otherwise banned medications.
Both Salazar and Rupp have denied any wrongdoing but they figure to draw attention at this week’s meet at Hayward Field, the University of Oregon track where the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team will be decided next year and world spots are up for grabs this week.
“I would think that any of this black cloud, so to speak, will be overshadowed by all of the positives that are going on and will happen this week,” Vin Lananna, Rupp’s former coach at Oregon, told the Eugene Register-Guard.
Rupp seeks his seventh consecutive US crown in the 10,000 on Thursday and is also set to race the 5,000 on Sunday. This will be his first meet since running the 5,000 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on May 29.
Other Nike Oregon athletes looking for a spot in Beijing include Matthew Centrowitz in the 1,500, Shannon Rowbury, Treniere Moser and Mary Cain in the women’s 1,500, Rowbury and Jordan Hasay in the 5,000 and Hasay at 10,000.
Nick Symmonds, an 800m runner-up at the 2013 Moscow worlds and twice an Olympian, said he wants to hear more details from Salazar and Rupp.
“I hope the media attention that comes from USAs is enough to finally get a statement from Nike, get a statement from Alberto, get a statement from Galen,” Symmonds told the Register-Guard. “How we have gone weeks into this scandal without a single statement addressing these allegations is absolutely absurd.”
– Doping-hit sprinters back –
Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion and 2005 world 100 and 200 champion, and Gay, the 2007 100 and 200 world champion, have faced skeptics and criticism themselves after comebacks following doping bans.
Gatlin ran a 100m personal best of 9.74 at Qatar last month, the fastest run in the world since Jamaican Yohan Blake went 9.69 in 2012, and strengthened Gatlin’s status as the fifth-best all-time performer. Gatlin won the 200 at the Prefontaine in 19.68.
In 2001, Gatlin was banned after tested positive for amphetamines but an appeal brought an early reinstatement by the IAAF. But in 2006, Gatlin tested positive after a relay run at a US meet and was eventually handed a four-year ban that ended in August of 2010.
Gay, who won the 100 at the Prefontaine in 9.88 seconds, missed the 2013 worlds in Moscow after testing positive for a banned substance. Gay was suspended until June of last year and stripped of his silver medal from the London Olympics in the 4x100m relay.