Alberto Salazar, the head coach of the Nike Oregon Project, is accused by former team members of violating drug rules by giving his athletes banned substances, according to a report Wednesday from ProPublica and the BBC program Panorama.
Salazar denied the allegations to ProPublica, saying, “No athlete within the Oregon Project uses a medication against the spirit of the sport we love.” The Nike Oregon Project was started in 2001 to help American distance running keep pace with the rest of the world, with Salazar at its lead.
Galen Rupp, an American who won the silver medal in the 10,000-meter run at the 2012 Olympics, is alleged to have taken the banned anabolic steroid testosterone under the supervision of Salazar since he was 16. (He began training with Salazar at age 15). Rupp denied ever using performance enhancing drugs to ProPublica and BBC.
Their allegations against Salazar range from experimenting with well-known doping aids, such as testosterone, to giving athletes prescription medications they either didn't need or weren't prescribed in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage from their side effects. Some runners say they joked that being fast was only one prerequisite for joining the team—you also had to have prescriptions for thyroid hormone or asthma medication.
Steve Magness, a former Oregon Project employee, alleges that he saw reports of the blood levels of athletes in Salazar's office that said Rupp is “currently on testosterone and prednisone medication.” That note in the report was dated to early in Rupp's career.
According to the report, Rupp has never failed a drug test and was tested 28 times in 2013.
Mo Farah, who won the gold medal in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the 2012 Olympics, is also an Oregon Project athlete and a training partner of Rupp. He was not implicated by any of the former team members in the ProPublica/BBC report and said he has never used performance enhancing drugs.
Kara Goucher, a prominent U.S. long-distance runner and former Nike Oregon Project member, told ProPublica and the BBC that Salazar is “sort of a win-at-all-costs person” and said it is hurting the sport. She is still featured on the project's website as one of the runner's who helped it gain prominence.
She recalled an exchange she had with Rupp in 2011.
"I had a conversation with Galen in 2011 in the British training camp [at the World Championships] in Daegu," she said, "and he told me how tired he was and how exhausted he was, how he was so excited to have the season be over." Three weeks later, he set the American record in the 10K.
Goucher announced she was leaving the Oregon Project shortly after that year's World Championships. In a blog post at the time, she wrote that Salazar “forever changed my life and I feel eternal gratitude toward him.”
- Molly Geary