Distance running coach Alberto Salazar has been placed on the United States Center for SafeSport's temporarily banned list, a decision that could lead to a lifetime ban. According to The New York Times, the center is investigating Salazar's conduct toward women he coached.
The decision is the latest in a series of recent actions that have put Salazar's future in the sport in question. Four months ago, the United States Anti-Doping Agency barred Salazar from the sport for four years for doping violations.
Salazar denies the doping violation charges and is appealing them.
In a statement to The Times, a spokesman for SafeSport said the organization “does not comment on specific matters to protect the integrity of the process and the parties involved, especially any potential victims.”
SafeSport investigates and rules on allegations of misconduct and abuse, and operates a centralized database of disciplinary action.
In October, The Times published a video op-ed featuring former high school track phenom Mary Cain, who claimed she suffered mental and physical abuse under the supervision of Salazar, her star coach, as a member of Nike’s Oregon Project.
In the wake of the October news, Nike shut the Oregon Project down.
Amid the fallout from Cain’s comments, Sports Illustrated contacted nine former Nike Oregon Project members, including Cain, about the culture under Salazar. Their accounts, extending back to 2008, validate Cain's claims and paint a picture of a toxic culture where female athletes’ bodies were fair game to be demeaned publicly.
Salazar, however, disputed Cain's account telling Sports Illustrated in October, in part: “My foremost goal as a coach was to promote athletic performance in a manner that supported the good health and well-being of all my athletes. On occasion, I may have made comments that were callous or insensitive over the course of years of helping my athletes through hard training. If any athlete was hurt by any comments that I have made, such an effect was entirely unintended, and I am sorry. I do dispute, however, the notion that any athlete suffered any abuse or gender discrimination while running for the Oregon Project.”
In December, hundreds of Nike employees staged a protest of Salazar and the company's treatment of women. The walkout picket was reportedly "quiet and orderly," but it came as a response to the rededication of the Alberto Salazar Building, an office on Nike's Beaverton campus named after the running coach.
Earlier this week, Women's Running noted that Nike said it is planning to take multiple actions to better support its female athletes, following an internal investigation into the Oregon Project.
In an email to the publication, Nike listed numerous initiatives it is looking to enact. Among them include: increasing the number of women coaches in sports, hiring a Vice President of global women's sports marketing and creating an athlete think tank to help the company better understand the challenges faced by female athletes.