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As Salazar is banned, Sifan denies any wrongdoing

Dutch 10000M champion says she is focused on completing a double by winning the 1500.
Sifan Hassan Of The Netherlands After Winning The 10000m On Saturday
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands after winning the 10000M on Saturday. The runner has denied any wrongdoing after her coach Alberto Salazar was banned for four years by USADA for anti-doping rule violations. Photo: Getty Images for IAAF

The ban on American coach Alberto Salazar had its echo in Doha too, with his ward Sifan Hassan targeting a double at the World Championships after winning the women’s 10,000M gold on Saturday.

Salazar, who has coached British long-distance ace Mo Farah among others, was given a four-year ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency after he was found guilty of doping violations.

On advice from the United States Track and Field, the International Association of Athletics Federation subsequently cancelled Salazar’s accreditation for the World Championships.

Hassan, who represents the Netherlands, immediately found herself under a cloud. The athlete has broken the world mile record this year and is a favourite to win the 1500M gold in Doha after her exploits in the 10000M.

In a statement released through her agency Global Sports Communications, Hassan denied any wrongdoing.

“I am shocked to receive the news of today’s ruling, especially during this time in which I am fully preparing for my next race in the World Championships in Doha. I like to state that this investigation is focused on the period before I joined the Oregon Project and therefore has no relation to me,” she said, referring to Salazar’s coaching programme in Eugene, United States.

“I was aware of the ongoing investigations when I joined the team and have always had a clean conscience, knowing we are being monitored to the absolute fullest by USADA and WADA. I am saddened by the timing of USADA as it brings my championship out of balance but I will focus all my energy on my next race and my performance in the 1500m. A race that I have worked hard to prepare for and am very excited to race in hopes of winning my second world title,” she said.

Despite her assertions, Hassan will have a hard time from here on, just like Farah, who has had to repeatedly deny any wrongdoing, after making big improvements in timings under Salazar.

The charges on Salazar included possessing and trafficking testosterone while training top runners at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP).

Among the athletes training at Oregon is American Donavan Brazier, who struck gold with a brilliant run in the 800M on Tuesday. While Brazier said he was disappointed over the whole development, he said he had never been associated with Salazar.

“He is not my coach. I have never trained under him. I am part of the Nike Oregon Project but my coach is Pete Julian. We have different training groups and our training group never crossed paths with Salazar’s,” said Brazier.

“I was probably in high school when I joined NOP. I did not know that he was under investigation at that time,” added Brazier.

Other US athletes who were not part of the project also faced questions about Salazar’s ban. Noah Lyles, the 200M winner said, “It really does not affect me. I was here to win the gold and that’s what I did today,” he said.