Capping a tumultuous week for Alberto Salazar, the wispy visage of the legendary coach materialized Sunday above the stadium in Doha, Qatar for the final day of the 2019 World Athletics Championships, literally overshadowing the event.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency early last week hit Salazar, a former elite marathoner and longtime coach of the Nike Oregon Project, with a four-year ban for doping violations. Several athletes coached by Salazar competed at the World Championships.
The World Championships, which itself had drawn criticism, ended Sunday, wrapping up 10 days of competition. The Salazar cloud appeared during the 1500m final, witness said, as traces of other clouds slowly coalesced into a single, huge mass bearing a striking resemblance to the disgraced coach.
“It was eerie,” said one spectator who watched it happen from the stands. “Sort of sent a chill through the crowd.”
Another witness agreed.
“Having this huge cloud hanging over the stadium was weird,” she said. “It really cast a pall over things.”
“It was hard to focus on the competition with Salazar up there,” she concluded. “What a distraction.”