Legendary Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar has admitted to injecting runners with L-carnitine, a potentially performance-enhancing supplement, the Sunday Times reports. The revelation has sparked controversy in the running community, though the injections were likely legal.
Critics have focused on Salazar's apparently contradictory stance on supplements. In 2013, to accusations that Mo Farah, an Olympic, world, and European champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters was doping, Salazar told the Telegraph that “none of our athletes are on any sports-specific supplement other than beta-alanine, which is an amino acid. Other than that, it’s iron, vitamin D, and that’s it. You don’t really need anything else.”
The Nike Oregon Project is an elite squad of distance runners that includes Farah and Galen Rupp, Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000 meters. The Sunday Times claims that both of those runners received injections of L-carnitine as far back as 2011, as did celebrated University of Houston coach Steve Magness.
L-carnitine helps the body turn fat into energy. It’s normally made in the liver and kidneys and stored in the muscles, heart, and brain. Although there’s dueling evidence as to whether the substance actually boosts performance, according to LetsRun.com, Magness’ performance improved by 8 to 9 percent when he took L-carnitine intravenously.
Taking the supplement orally is legal under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules. It’s also fair game to inject legal substances as long as athletes take in less than 1.6 ounces in a six-hour period.