Nike Oregon Project track program to end in wake of Alberto Salazar’s doping ban
Nike is closing its elite Oregon Project track and field program overseen by Alberto Salazar following his recent four-year doping ban. But the sportswear giant still is backing the coach.
Salazar was found guilty last week by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of running experiments with supplements and testosterone that were bankrolled and supported by Nike, along with possessing and trafficking testosterone.
The verdict didn’t directly implicate runners from the Nike Oregon Project. But the company is partly blaming the scrutiny on the stars of the training center for its decision to shut the program that began in 2001.
Salazar, 61, has consistently denied being involved in doping schemes. Nike is supporting his plan to appeal the ban. In the meantime, Salazar cannot coach and his credential was revoked during the world track and field championships last week.
“This situation including uninformed innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions has become an unfair burden for current OP athletes,” Nike said in a statement Friday from its London offices. “That is exactly counter to the purpose of the team. We have therefore made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project to allow the athletes to focus on their training and competition needs.”
The Oregon Project athletes now seeking a new training center include Donovan Brazier, the first U.S. athlete to win a world 800-meter title, and Sifan Hassan, the Ethiopian-born Dutch runner who last week became the only woman to win the 1,500 and 10,000 at the same world championships or Olympics.
“We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them,” Nike said.
USADA released last week a pair of 100-plus-page decisions by an arbitration panel that delivered the suspensions for both Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown, the endocrinologist who did contract work for NOP and administered the medicine.
The documents, combined with earlier reporting by the BBC and ProPublica, portrayed a coach and doctor who used athletes and employees as guinea pigs to test theories on how supplements and medicine could enhance performance without breaking anti-doping rules. The documents also showed they went to great lengths to produce falsified and incomplete medical records that made their master plan hard to detect.
“It is the right thing and now let’s hope they accept that mistakes were made and truly commit to clean sport and the health, well-being of athletes,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.
Rob Harris is an Associated Press writer.