What athletes & coaches are saying about doping allegations against coach Alberto Salazar
The USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships are set to begin next week in Eugene, Ore., but a dark cloud looms over the sport as Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar and distance runner Galen Rupp are the subject of doping allegations.
A report by ProPublica and the BBC, based on testimony by several of Salazar's former athletes and coaches, alleges that he pushed the boundaries on doping rules to gain a competitive advantage by encouraging the use of prescription medication and therapeutic use exemptions.
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.) He has been among the most tested athletes by the United States Anti-Doping Association over the last few years and has never failed a drug test.
Here is a roundup of comments from athletes and coaches who have spoken out since the report was released on June 3.
Alberto Salazar, Nike Oregon Project head coach
The coach issued the following statement to The Oregonian:
“I believe in a clean sport and hard work, and so do my athletes. Apparently that is not interesting enough for some. I am very disappointed that the BBC and ProPublica and their ‘reporters’ have allowed themselves to be used by individuals with agendas and have engaged in such inaccurate and unfounded journalism. Rather than present the facts, they opted for sensationalism and innuendo. It is particularly sad that they have attacked Galen and his excellent reputation, which he has earned through years of hard work.”
Since the allegations surfaced, Salazar has not been present at any meets in which his athletes have competed. It is expected that he will release another response to the allegations soon.
Galen Rupp, Oregon Project runner and Olympic silver medalist
Rupp also issued his statement with Salazar:
“I am very disappointed in the BBC and ProPublica. I am dedicated to clean sport and have worked extremely hard for every accomplishment in my running career. I expressly told these reporters that these allegations were not true and their sources admit they have no evidence, yet they print ‘suspicions’ attacking me and sullying my reputation. That is inexcusable, irresponsible journalism.”
Rupp was slated to run at the Portland Track Festival on June 13 and 14 but withdrew from his races. He is entered in the men’s 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter run at the U.S. championships.
Mo Farah, Oregon Project runner since 2011 and double Olympic champion
“I’m really angry about the situation. It’s not fair. I haven’t done anything, but my name is getting dragged through the mud. My reputation is getting ruined.”
Farah held a press conference with reporters before the Birmingham Diamond League Meeting on June 6 but withdrew from his 1,500-meter race to fly back home to Portland and seek answers from Salazar. Farah has not been training with other members of the team in Park City, Utah and is now in France. No allegations of cheating were made against Farah.
Farah joined the Oregon Project in 2011 and went on to win gold medals in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter run at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London while representing Great Britain.
On June 17, The Daily Mail reported that Farah missed two drug tests prior to the 2012 Olympics. His agent Ricky Simms submitted video evidence to the UK Anti-Doping Agency to further prove that Farah was asleep in his Teddington home and could not hear the door bell when drug testers arrived. The double-Olympic champion issued a statement on his Facebook page regarding the latest allegations on Friday morning.
"I have never taken performance enhancing drugs in my life and I never will. Over the course of my career I have taken hundreds of drugs tests and every single one has been negative. I’ve fully explained the only two tests in my career that I have ever missed, which the authorities understood, and there was never any suggestion that these were anything more than simple mistakes. The last two weeks have been the toughest of my life – with rumours and speculation about me that are completely false – and the impact this has had on my family and friends has left me angry, frustrated and upset. In particular, the media pressure on my young family and my wife, who is 5 months pregnant, is extremely painful, especially as I’m away training for some important races. As I made clear, I went to Portland to speak to Alberto Salazar and demand answers. He reassured me that the claims are false and that he will soon be providing evidence to make that clear. Until then I will not be commenting further on the allegations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fans, family, friends and teammates for all the great support they have provided over the last few days and hope that I will now be allowed to focus on my training and winning medals for my country."
Steve Magness, former Oregon Project assistant coach from 2011 to 2012
Magness was present at the Portland Track Festival to coach athlete Sara Hall, but he did not speak with reporters. In an update from ProPublica, Magness shared past emails between him and Alberto Salazar.
One email detailed Alberto Salazar requesting that his wife mail him Celebrex pills overnight hidden in a magazine.
Magness was one of the prominent officials who spoke in the initial ProPublica story. He left the Oregon Project before the 2012 Olympics and is now coaching at the University of Houston.
Kara Goucher, former Oregon Project runner from 2004 to 2011
Goucher gave a tearful testimony in the BBC documentary about being advised by Salazar to take Cytomel, a synthetic thyroid hormone, after giving birth in 2010. She raced at the Portland Track Festival’s 5,000-meter run but did not address the Salazar allegations in her post-race comments. Goucher trained under Salazar from 2004 to 2011 and won a bronze medal in the 10,000-meter run at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. She will compete in the 5,000-meter run at the U.S. Championships.
Adam Goucher, former Oregon Project runner from 2004 to 2009
Goucher had strong words for Salazar during the BBC documentary and went on to describe Salazar's use of over-the-counter drugs in another ProPublica update.
"(Salazar is) big on medicine," Goucher said. "He’ll give you a pill to help you fall asleep, give you a pill to help you go to the bathroom.”
Goucher was an NCAA champion and All-America on the track, but he failed to make the 2004 U.S. Olympic team before joining Salazar's training group with his wife. He last competed on the track in 2009.
Matthew Centrowitz, Oregon Project runner since 2012
After running a personal best in the 800-meter run at the Adidas Grand Prix on June 13, Centrowitz walked through the mixed zone of reporters without answering any questions. He tweeted a picture of someone yawning, presumably dismissing any allegations, on June 3.
Centrowitz won a bronze medal in the 1,500-meter run at the 2010 IAAF World Championships shortly after winning the NCAA title in the same event. Under Salazar, Centrowitz finished fourth in the 1,500-meter Olympic final in London and won a silver medal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
Treniere Moser, Oregon Project runner since 2012
The 2013 U.S. 1,500-meter champion told reporters at the Adidas Grand Prix that she has not witnessed any foul play or wrongdoing by Rupp or Salazar. Moser said she stands by her teammates and supports the Oregon Project. Under Salazar, Moser made the U.S. national team headed to Moscow but withdrew before the race due to an injury.
Cameron Levins, Oregon Project runner since 2013
The Canadian distance runner won the Portland Track Festival’s 5,000-meter run in 13:20.68. After the race, he spoke with LetsRun.com’s Weldon Johnson about the Salazar allegations.
“It’s hard for me to address them specifically just because I’ve only been a part of the group a couple of years and it seems all the allegations are before that time. I can comment on Galen and Alberto. They have been very trustworthy. There is nothing I have ever seen that I would attribute to any of these allegations. I’ve never been pushed in any thing considered a grey area that a lot of people have sort of implied at. I trust them. They have never given me any reason not to. I know Alberto and Galen are doing whatever they can to dispute these allegations and to prove them wrong. I trust them to do that.”
Levins said he is not on any thyroid medication, but he uses an inhaler for his asthma. He started treating his asthma after running 190-mile weeks as a post-collegiate athlete in Utah before joining the Oregon Project in April 2013.
Levins represented Canada in the 10,000-meter run at the 2012 Olympics, where he finished in 11th place.
Mary Cain, coached by Alberto Salazar since 2012
Cain has not trained with the Nike Oregon Project since May. Upon completion of her freshman year at the University of Portland, Cain returned home to New York City to train on her own but still receives workouts from Salazar. After her race at the Adidas Grand Prix, Cain said that Salazar was still coaching her, but she has stayed off social media and away from reading into any of the allegations.
Cain began running for Salazar while still attending Bronxville High School in New York. In 2013, Cain became the youngest runner in history to represent the U.S. at the World Championship stage and finished 10th in the 1,500-meter final. She most recently won a gold medal in the 3,000-meter run at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene. She has struggled to start off the 2015 season.
Shannon Rowbury, Oregon Project runner since 2013
Rowbury ran the 800-meter run (2:00.53) and 1,500-meter run (4:07.52) at the Portland Track Festival. The impressive feat was accomplished 12 minutes apart, but reporters focused their questioning on her relationship with Salazar.
“I wasn’t a member on the team when the Gouchers or Steve Magness were here, so I can’t comment on what they said, but I can speak from my own experience and say that Alberto has been a really great coach to me and I’ve never seen anything that would make me question him or my teammates. I have a clean record. I have never cheated. I never would. I would rather quit the sport than do that. I hope that over time people can recognize my character.”
Rowbury was a two-time Olympian before joining Salazar's training group after the retirement of coach John Cook.
John Cook, Oregon Project assistant coach from 2003 to 2005
Cook told Runner’s World that he was “not surprised” by the drug allegations surrounding Salazar. He also severed his relationship with Rowbury after she decided to join the Oregon Project in 2013. Rowbury insists he has reached out to her on multiple occasions since the move.
Josh Rohatinsky, Oregon Project athlete from 2007 to 2009
In a long Facebook post, Rohatinsky stated that he believes “the full extent of the evidence brought forth in the report/documentary by all the witnesses.” He also shared his “highly suspicious” feelings about Rupp’s rise to Olympic success from 2006 to 2012. Testoboost and Alpha Male were the only supplements recommended to Rohatinsky by Salazar, he wrote.
John Stiner, therapist hired by Salazar in 2008
In the BBC Panorama documentary, Stiner recalls coming across a tube of testosterone in Rupp’s room, which Salazar suggested was for his own heart problems. Stiner told the Daily Mail on Tuesday that he also found a bag of needles in the home where Rupp was based. Stiner was hired by Salazar to work as a massage therapist with Rupp and other athletes before the 2008 Olympics.
Lauren Fleshman, former Nike athlete
Fleshman was never coached by Alberto Salazar, but in 2005 she suffered symptoms of exercise-induced asthma and decided to consult with the esteemed Nike coach. In a June 17 ProPublica update, Fleshman says that Salazar helped her get proper asthma treatment and medication. The doctor recommended that she used the inhaler during allergy season while Salazar suggested year-round use.
“There was just something about it that made me feel very clearly that that approach to my inhaler was wrong, that the spirit of the sport did not support that. Turning illness into an advantage was not right. That you take a medication to fix the problem, not to fix the problem and then go above and beyond.”
Fleshman finished seventh in the 5,000-meter run at the 2011 IAAF World Championships and is now a professional runner for the women's apparel company Oiselle.
Mary Decker Slaney, former Salazar athlete and American record holder in 1,500-meter run
Slaney tested positive for testosterone in 1996, and documents showed Salazar was coaching her at the time. She was banned for two years by the International Amateur Athletic Federation before having the suspension lifted four months later after a hearing with the USATF found her innocent of any wrongdoing. In his recent defense, the Oregon Project coach has reportedly called on Slaney to dismiss the allegations that he was coaching her at the time of her positive test. Slaney told The Portland Tribune on Tuesday that she never cheated and that Salazar was never her primary coach.
“The guy has always been helpful, but Bill was my coach," Slaney said. "Alberto has always been there, too, but he has never been my primary coach.”
Slaney has remained distant from the sport since her retirement but was honored at the 2015 Prefontaine Classic as "legend" and crossed paths with Salazar at the meet.