27 June - Some Thoughts on Al Sal

So the Al Sal story rumbles on. I don't claim to have read everything on the subject, or intend to do so. My view is that his extremely detailed 12,000 word rebuttal of the accusations against him is highly persuasive in his favour and , in total, far more robust, empirical, validated and better researched than any of the accusations made so far. Whilst he is not essentially a scientist or a doctor, he seems to have made much more in depth research into aspects of these areas than any of the athletes/ex-athletes now criticising him. Maybe that’s part of what makes him such a successful coach. On a recentTelegraph blog the journalist seems to be criticising him for acting as an intermediary between athlete and sci/med expert when that’s exactly what elite performance coaching encourages, with the proviso that each specialist knows his place and doesn’t exceed his remit. Al Sal has enough self-awareness to accept his own paranoia when looking into some tests about the effects of rubbing testosterone cream onto athletes’ bodies. His story is very detailed and has a ring of truth to it in my view.

He was criticised by the same journalist for needing 12,000 words to put his case and for taking so long to put it together. That’s really ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ He’s one of the world’s leading track coaches, coming into the peak of the track season when the fiercely competitive USA trials for the upcoming World Championships take place. He won’t be doing his athletes, Nike, Team USA or his short term coaching success any favours if he spends inadequate time as a coach and an excess of time dealing with what he believes to be sloppy malignant journalism.   It’s disappointing, and serves the sport very poorly,  that the media coverage has been led in the main by sports journalists who know less about athletics and endurance than they think they do. So we had the bizarre case of the BBC writer, a reasonable  recreational triathlete, doing his experiment on EPO micro-dosing that even a GCSE student would have picked up for its poor structure. In summary, over a 2 month period, he substantially raised the quality and quantity of his aerobic training beyond anything he had previously done and did so via a professional tri coach to add quality assurance to the training. Simultaneously he took EPO up to the level whereby he expected not to fail a doping test based on data readily available. At the end of the period his aerobic performance had significantly improved and he did indeed get a clean sheet on the EPO front. So, he concluded, EPO micro dosing enables you to get the drug’s performance benefits without getting caught. I assume you see the gaping flaw in this methodology.             

One annoying point related point of all this is that whilst the media focus and resources have been so focused on the USA, and a squad where noone has ever actually failed a doping test, what seems to be the world’s leading nation in terms of doping in endurance running in the context of the fairly small size of its elite talent pool, seems to be largely unnoticed. It has ‘exported’ its doping runners to compete for numerous other nations other than their native country ; including (take a deep breath) France, Spain, Belgium, Qatar, USA, Bahrain. Doping suspensions prove beyond doubt this doping diaspora and it includes athletes who have won World and Olympic Gold medals and set endurance world records before they got caught.  My guess is that a mixture of political correctness and this nation not being an Anglophone one have kept the Western media from delving the way they have delved into Al Sal.