CHICAGO (Reuters) - The winds of change are roiling through the sport of endurance running as athletes descend on the Windy City for Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, with one of the sport’s longstanding figureheads conspicuously out of the picture.
American Alberto Salazar, who has coached some of the world’s top distance runners, including the marathon’s two most recent men’s champions, was handed a four-year ban less than two weeks ago for doping violations.
The head coach of the elite Nike Oregon Project (NOP) was sanctioned for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct”, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said.
Salazar said he plans to appeal against the ruling.
Although he faced years of suspicion and allegations, his suspension nonetheless shocked the sport, with 2018 and 2017 Chicago Marathon Champions Mo Farah and Galen Rupp among his most decorated pupils.
Reigning champion Farah, who won Olympic gold in the 5,000- and 10,000 metres at both the 2012 and 2016 Games, worked with Salazar from 2011 to 2017.
Jordan Hasay, a top contender on the women’s side, was still working with Salazar at the time of his suspension, as was 2017 Chicago winner Rupp.
Farah said after Salazar’s suspension was announced that he has no tolerance for rule breakers. Neither he, Rupp nor Hasay were accused of wrongdoing in the USADA report.
Chicago Marathon Director Carey Pinkowski told Reuters on Thursday that he and the event embraced the announcement about Salazar.
“What you’re seeing is the emotion of not only that announcement but it’s been many years of frustration and challenge and it’s been brought out in the light of day,” said Pinkowski, who is celebrating his 30th year overseeing the marathon.
“For us as leaders of the industry, I think it’s an opportunity for us to move forward.”
The 42nd running of the race sees an elite field stacked with talent, with this year’s Boston Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono of Kenya joining American Rupp and Briton Farah among the top contenders.
On the women’s side, Hasay is on the hunt for her first-ever major marathon title, while reigning Chicago winner Brigid Kosgei of Kenya will look to build on her momentum after claiming victory at the London Marathon in April.
In the men’s wheelchair division, veteran 10-times Boston Marathon champion Ernst Van Dyk will battle against 21-year-old Dan Romanchuk, who last year won in Chicago and became the youngest athlete to win the New York Marathon.
Eight-times Chicago winner Tatyana McFadden will look to add to her formidable pile of medals in the women’s wheelchair field.
Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond