As a runner, Salazar most famously pushed himself to a dangerous limit along the humid, seven-mile course of the 1978 Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod, where he ended up with a body temperature of 107 degrees and was administered last rites.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an athlete drive himself as hard as Alberto,” said George Hirsch, chairman of the board of New York Road Runners, the organizers of the New York City Marathon, where Salazar won in his debut at 26.2 miles in 1980.
In Salazar’s coaching, Hirsch said, “There was always this sense that Alberto would push the envelope but that to his credit, he knew where the line was and got to the edge but within legal limits.”
Others were more suspicious. According to USADA, Salazar strayed beyond the allowable. His greatest athlete, Mo Farah of Britain, who won four Olympic gold medals on the track and left the Nike Oregon Project in 2017, said in a statement, “I have no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line.”
The response among people I spoke with on Tuesday seemed more bittersweet.
Salazar is on a short list of legendary American marathon runners — Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor. Rodgers, who won Boston and New York four times each and trained with Salazar when Salazar was just a superfast teen from suburban Boston, said, “This is a thin case.”
For those keeping score, though, the report is 140 pages thick.
Few have possessed Salazar’s determination to succeed, which brought him to soaring heights and may have contributed to his downfall.
“Alberto is one of the true heroes of the sport,” Hirsch said. “Any questions raised, that’s concerning for sure.”