COURTESY: MARY SLANEY - Mary Slaney and husband Richard enjoy time in their home on the outskirts of Eugene.EUGENE — Mary Decker Slaney says she doesn’t know if Alberto Salazar is guilty of the doping charges leveled at the Nike Oregon Project running coach through a recent ProPublica article and BBC documentary.

The former distance running great and her husband, Richard Slaney, strenuously dispute reports, however, that she tested positive for testosterone during the 1996 Olympic Trials while working with Salazar as coach.

In May 1997, Slaney and two other athletes were suspended by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which stressed it was not presuming the athletes guilty of using banned substances, but that it had grown impatient because the cases had taken nearly a year to get settled. The U.S. Track & Field Federation eventually followed suit, barring the athletes from competing in the national championships that year.

Less than four months later, Slaney’s suspensions were lifted after a hearing with a USATF doping hearing board, which concluded that “Mary Slaney committed no doping violation last year.”

Eighteen years later, the Slaneys are still steamed about it.

“The test was total BS,” says Richard Slaney, 59, a former British discus thrower who wed Mary Decker in 1985. “The problem is, somebody leaked it to the press. The initial statement was, ‘Mary tested positive,’ which was not true. Had they not leaked it to the press, no one would have ever heard of it, because the test was clearly was wrong.”

In a statement to the BBC, Duke Law School professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman — a former nationally ranked 800 runner who helped with Slaney’s representation in the USATF doping hearing — echoed Richard’s comments.

Mary Slaney “never ‘tested positive for testosterone,’” Coleman wrote. “The (International Olympic Committee) laboratory reports are clear that her testosterone levels were always within her own normal range, which itself was always within the normal, allowable range. Those facts were never disputed.

“She was exonerated by the USATF because of this and because the IOC laboratories were unable to explain why their own internal scientific literature questioned the validity and reliability of the ... test as a proxy for doping, especially for women whose hormone levels naturally fluctuate.”

Coleman wrote that Slaney subsequently sued the IAAF in U.S. federal court but lost “because of a treaty, not because the IAAF proved she had committed a doping offense.” The law professor noted that the IAAF has since revised its procedures and the IOC Laboratories have stopped using the test as its basis to prosecute doping cases.

“Cases today are prosecuted only on the basis of valid and reliable evidence,” Coleman wrote. “That was Mary’s goal in suing the IAAF. Despite press reports suggesting otherwise, Mary did nothing wrong.”

Richard said during the year-long investigation, “the fight stopped being about Mary. The fight became about the test. ... it was just ridiculous. I spent a year of my life learning something that was totally useless in anything else I ever did. All it did was make me angry, because they knew that they were doing it wrong.”

Slaney, 56, said she never used steroids during an international career that spanned more than two decades beginning in the early 1970s.

Asked if she felt there is a problem with PEDs in track and field, Mary asked, “What are PEDs?”

Told they are performance-enhancing drugs, she responded, “I think every sport does.”

“In the ‘70s and ‘80s they were prevalent in track and field,” said Mary, who has lived in Eugene since 1979. “Most of the problems were with the Eastern bloc countries — the women in particular. I remember how different they looked.”

“When I first started throwing back in the ‘70s, people talked about (PEDs) openly,” Richard said. “The throwers certainly did. It was like, ‘What are you taking this week?’”

Mary Slaney also denied reports that Salazar was her coach in 1996. She said she was training with Bill Dellinger, the former University of Oregon coach, after her previous coach, Luis de Oliveira, left Eugene. Slaney said she has known Alberto since she first moved to Eugene in 1979, after which both were members of Nike’s Athletics West track club.

“We have run together off and on for all those years,” she said. “The guy has always been helpful, but Bill was my coach. Alberto has always been there, too, but he has never been my primary coach.”

The Slaneys and Salazar have remained friendly through the years.

“I pay attention to what’s going on with him,” Mary Slaney said. “I’ve known Galen Rupp since he was a high schooler. I remember Alberto calling me all excited, that he’d found this amazing talent at the high school he was coaching at. ‘He’s a natural,’ Alberto said.

“We had his Central Catholic team to our house for a spaghetti feed the night before a state meet one year. After dinner, Alberto had them watch my races at the 1983 world championships to provide them motivation.”

The Slaneys saw Salazar at the Prefontaine Classic last month.

“We hadn’t talked to Alberto for probably a year and a half,” Richard said. “I asked him how he was doing, and he said, ‘Getting tired of the BS.’ I thought he meant the normal BS.

“I just wish we’d have been left out of all this, because it’s totally irrelevant.”

The Slaneys say they are no longer close to the track and field scene.

“We don’t know anything about anything anymore,” Richard said. “But I remember talking to Alberto and Galen about how much testing they do now. Much of it is random testing, which they started to do at the end of our (competing era).”

When the subject of masking agents was brought up, Mary asked, “What are those?”

Masking agents have helped many athletes hide or prevent detection of a banned substance through the years.

“The problem is, people ask, ‘What about Lance Armstrong?’” Richard said. “I have no idea how he beat the tests, but he had millions of dollars at his disposal. He cheated, but that doesn’t mean everybody is cheating.”

Does Slaney think Salazar is guilty of the allegations?

“I have no way of knowing,” she said. “I feel bad for Alberto at the moment, because he is a friend of mine. And for Galen, and Mo (Farah). Everybody is being linked.

“What I do know is, what they’re going through is very hurtful, it is very draining, it is exhausting. It’s horrible.”

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