Renowned executive coach Alberto Salazar, who made the top Americans more competitive in athletics before he was suspended for doping violations, has banned from the sport for life last month after a referee found that he most likely did not sexually assault an athlete on two separate occasions, according to a summary of the ruling reviewed by The New York Times.
The lawsuit against Salazar is pursued by the US Center for SafeSport, an organization that investigates reports of abuse in Olympic sports. SafeSport rules Salazar permanently ineligible in July 2021found that he had committed four violations, including two cases where his fingers entered runners during a sports massage.
Salazar requested an arbitration hearing, where he denied the allegations and said he did not speak to or meet the runner during the days in question. The referee did not find Salazar’s explanation credible and accepted his accuser’s version of events.
The details of the ruling, which have yet to be reported, shed light on why Salazar, a powerful figure in the racing elite, was banned from his sport. Several campaigners have publicly accused him of bullying and verbal and emotional abuse, but the physical assault allegations have not been released publicly. Salazar has never been criminally charged in connection with these allegations.
The ruling also has implications for SafeSport, which has come under heavy criticism since it was founded six years ago, and for its mission to prevent abuse in sport.
The document summarizing the referee’s argument, prepared for USA Track & Field and the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee so they could impose a lifetime ban, did not name Salazar’s accuser. It provided enough detail to identify the person, by describing the athlete’s relationship with Salazar and giving details of the alleged incidents. The Times, which often does not identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, is refusing to release those and other identifying details.
Salazar’s accuser did not respond to messages seeking comment for this article.
In an email, Salazar said he “never engaged in any form of inappropriate sex or sexual misconduct”.
“Sexual misconduct is the complete opposite of who I am,” he wrote. “As a devoted husband, father, and human being, I consider any kind of sexual misconduct towards others an act of personal humiliation and goes against all odds. I believe. My heart aches for the victims of sexual deviance, but in this case, I have never committed any such misconduct.”
Salazar wrote that the SafeSport process was unfair and “lack of due process safeguards”, and that if there was a “full and fair trial” there would be a different outcome. He also said he wanted to provide more facts about the “falsity of the allegations against me” but was limited by SafeSport’s privacy rules.
Participants in SafeSport cases are generally allowed to talk about their experiences, but are restricted from disclosing specific details about their case.
For nearly two decades through 2019, Salazar, 63, was the most popular coach of the Nike Oregon Project, a running team sponsored by the athletic shoe and clothing giant and headquartered in the United States. Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. and international distance runners trained under Salazar at the Oregon Project.
Before that, Salazar was the marketing director of Nike and one of the best marathon runners in the world. He won the New York City Marathon three times and the Boston Marathon once in the early 1980s, though his career stalled when he was in his mid-20s.
Salazar’s coaching career fell apart in 2019 when he banned from athletics for four years for doping violations involves using prescription drugs for something other than their intended use and interfering with the doping control process. Salazar twice appealed his case and after a long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Court of Arbitration for Sport maintain the ban in September.
Soon after Salazar was banned, a number of athletes he had coached publicly described their negative experiences with him. Mary Cain said Salazar embarrassed her with her weight in front of other members of the Oregon Project team, and Amy Yoder Begley says Salazar told her he would kick her off the team because she had “the biggest butt on the starting line.”
Salazar said no runners have experienced abuse or sexism under his coaching, but he admitted he may have “made callous or insensitive remarks. ”
Nike – the company that was behind Salazar when he was accused of doping and even funded the expensive legal costs of that case – soon dropped its support. Nike employees marching at the company’s headquarters to protest its support of Salazar, and the Oregon Project was closed. Last year, Nike has renamed a building on its campus that has been named for Salazar.
Nike did not respond to questions about whether allegations of Salazar’s inappropriate conduct had ever been reported to the company or whether the company had ever investigated his conduct. In a statement, Nike said that Salazar is no longer a contract coach and that SafeSport’s ruling makes it “appropriate” to remove his name from the building.
As Nike’s relationship with Salazar is being re-examined, SafeSport is investigating claims against him.
SafeSport has taken charge of investigating abuse in amateur and Olympic sports after it was created by USOPC in 2016 and drafted by the National Assembly the following yearfollowing the abuse of hundreds of gymnasts by Lawrence G. Nassar and the failure of the US Gymnastics Administration to properly investigate the allegations.
The Salazar case is arguably the most famous issue that SafeSport pursues. Affirming their ruling can help establish credibility and signal a willingness to take on powerful figures, in the same way that the US Anti-Doping Agency’s profile grew following an investigation into the whistleblower. bicycle. Lance Armstrong a decade ago. But SafeSport released some details about its decisions or the evidence it gathered, which in Salazar’s case has led some observers to believe he has been banned for life for his comments. verbal argument.
SafeSport has been heavily criticized for its mission and processes. Victims of abuse and their supporters have said that SafeSport investigation of cases is too slow and leave them in the dark, and it’s not really independent and trying shift responsibility away from national regulatory bodies and USOPC Some people accused of abuse have complained that SafeSport investigations lack due process and that building a solid defense can be very expensive.
SafeSport declined to comment specifically on its case against Salazar. But in response to questions about the organization, Ju’Riese Colón, its chief executive officer, wrote in an email that “the proceedings are intertwined with every aspect of its response and resolution systems.” we.” Colón added that there is room for improvement in investigating issues quickly, but added that “there is no good way to quickly deal with traumatic and complex issues.”
Salazar was the first put on SafeSport’s temporary banned list in January 2020. He was permanently suspended in July 2021, for reasons listed as both emotional and sexual misconduct.
He requested an arbitration hearing, which was heard in a three-day video conference in early December by an arbitrator from JAMS, a dispute resolution firm. 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 superior evidence, similar to that of civil cases in the United States, and lower than that used in US criminal cases. , in which a charge is established if the evidence exceeds a reasonable level of doubt.
SafeSport issued a notice of findings including four violations to the SafeSport code, three of which were upheld by the referee and one that was not, resulting in Salazar’s permanent disqualification.
The three continued violations included two allegations of physical assault, as well as Salazar’s sexually inappropriate comments and actions towards runners.
The fourth violation that SafeSport found, in which Salazar made inappropriate comments about another athlete’s weight and body shape, was not upheld by the referee. The referee criticized Salazar’s comments but said they were not made with “disrespectful or demeaning intent”, and therefore his comments did not violate USA Track & Field’s code of conduct. .
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/sports/alberto-salazar-sexual-assault.html Alberto Salazar banned for life for alleged sexual assault