Legal doping? Yes, you read that correctly! While the use of illegal and questionable substances such as steroids are more common, there are materials in existence that are legal, while also being questionable in the world of athletics. Many of these legal substances have regulations regarding their use and any use outside of those specific sets of rules can make them illegal.
Coaches Nike Oregon and Alberto Salazar have been publically accused of legally doping with a substance known as L-Carnitine by the UK Sunday Times Newspaper. While this supplement is completely legal, the coaches are receiving negative attention for their use of the substance with their endurance athletes. However, whether or not the coaches have done anything wrong seems to be a gray area.
According to the newspaper, Salazar improperly used prescription medications and used prohibited substances in order to increase levels of testosterone. It is suspected that at least six athletes were given L-carnitine under his supervision. As mentioned, the use of this substance is considered legal by the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) as is the method the coach used to administer the drug. Intravenous injections are considered acceptable when fifty mL or less of the substance is given within a six hour time period.
This accusation of doping is likely no more than a coach being willing to experiment and push the limits of both science and his athletes using completely legal supplements to maximize performance without breaking the rules. Coach Salazar is open about the L-carnitine use and regularly contacts the USADA (The United States Anti-Doping Agency) concerning the use of the supplement and their regulations. The UK newspaper cannot, or has not, provided any information to dispute this.
Salazar contacted the USADA in 2011 stating he wanted to use the supplement on some of this athletes and was referred to the WADA regulations to stay within the rules and regulations provided regarding infusions as well as injections as a delivery method.Salazar has repeatedly voiced that he received guidance and assurance from both the WADA and the USADA stating that he was indeed within the guidelines of their anti-doping regulations and says he has done nothing violating any of these rules. He received formal documentation of the WADA regulations stating that his intended use would be within their guidelines before starting his athletes on the supplement. Evidence has been found that confirms these claims made by the coach.
A Russian hacking organization referred to as the Fancy Bears was able to extract some evidence against Salazar when they came across a memo from the USADA that was an internal company document. In the memo, Salazar was accused of violating the anti-doping regulations and participating in illegal actions, as well as using potentially harmful supplementing methods on his athletes, specifically the L-carnitine infusions. The USADA admits it is actively investigating the coach as well as his athletes for potentially violating the doping regulations. This investigation includes accusations of abusing completely legal substances such as injectable L-carnitine, salbutamol, and T3.