MADRID (Reuters) - The specter of doping was again looming over athletics and cycling on Thursday with a top running coach, a world champion steeplechaser from Spain and a Tour de France-winning cyclist on the defensive.
American running guru Alberto Salazar, whose British charge Mo Farah is a double Olympic champion, is being investigated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a source told Reuters.
News of the probe coincided with the second of two appeal hearings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland into a doping case involving Marta Dominguez, the 2009 world steeplechase champion.
Cycling, which has been rocked by a series of high-profile doping cases over the past decade, also made the headlines when former Tour de France champion Chris Froome, the poster boy for British cycling, said he missed a drugs test this year.
There was no suggestion Froome, one of the favorites for this year’s Tour, which starts in Utrecht, Netherlands on July 4, had committed any offence.
The Salazar investigation began before the BBC television program Panorama, with American website ProPublica, made a series of allegations, the source told Reuters.
USADA declined to comment on whether a probe has been launched.
The accusations, which Cuba-born Salazar has strongly denied, included that he had given Olympic 10,000 meters silver medalist Galen Rupp the banned steroid testosterone.
Rupp is the training partner of Farah who has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Dominguez, a senator for the ruling People’s Party (PP) and a former vice president of Spain’s athletics federation (RFEA), has gone to CAS to challenge what local media have reported is a four-year ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The IAAF and WADA do not comment on doping cases until they are resolved.
One of Spain’s best-known athletes, Dominguez was caught up in a police sting, known as ‘Operation Greyhound’, in 2010.
She was one of 14 people, taken in for questioning by the Civil Guard, suspected of involvement in the trafficking of illegal drugs and crimes against public health but was later cleared of all charges.
According to Spanish media, Dominguez’s latest defense consists of raising doubts about the reliability of the “biological passport” used to detect a possible drugs violation.
She also argues that she suffers from hyperthyroidism and that it may be responsible for any anomalies.
If her appeal fails she will have her results annulled from August 2009, including the world title she won in Berlin, Spanish media said.
The CAS is expected to publish its verdict at the end of next month.
Froome blamed over-zealous hotel staff for the missed test.
“I had a couple of recovery days and I took my wife down to quite an exclusive hotel in Italy,” the 2013 Tour champion told British media.
“On the first morning the authorities pitched up at seven and the hotel staff actually wouldn’t give them access to our room and also refused to let them call up.”
Riders must provide their whereabouts at all times to the authorities so they can be tested out of competition and three missed tests over a rolling 12-month period result in a ban.
One of the highest-profile athletes found guilty of doping, American sprinter Justin Gatlin, also weighed in on Thursday.
Gatlin, who has served two drug bans but never admitted wrongdoing, told Reuters he does not understand why people insist on calling him a cheat.
With Usain Bolt struggling to regain top form, many expect Gatlin to beat the Jamaican in the 100 meters at the world championships in Beijing in August.
Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Eugene, Oregon and Julien Pretot in Paris, editing by Tony Jimenez