Galen Rupp is supporting Alberto Salazar after his career-long coach was banned four years in a long-running U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case.
Rupp, who races the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, spoke out Friday for the first time since Salazar’s ban was handed down last week. The race airs live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streams on NBC Sports Gold for subscribers at 8 a.m. ET.
“I have personally seen [Salazar] take great care to comply with the [World Anti-Doping Agency] Code and prevent any violations of any anti-doping rules,” Rupp said in a statement. “I understand he is appealing the decision and wish him success. From my experience, he has always done his best for his athletes and the sport. Now, I am focused on the Chicago Marathon where I will be competing for the first time without my coach and friend.”
Rupp declined comment on the specifics of Salazar’s ban for violations including possessing and trafficking testosterone while training top runners at the Nike Oregon Project.
He said he hasn’t spoken with Salazar in a professional capacity since the ban. He declined to answer when asked by LetsRun.com if he had any other contact with Salazar in that span.
“I’m focused on the race on Sunday,” Rupp said. “I’m going to deal with the coaching thing after that.”
The Oregon Project is being shut down by Nike. It was founded in 2001, around the time Salazar began converting Rupp from a high school freshman soccer player to become the U.S.’ top distance runner, a two-time Olympic medalist and 2017 Chicago Marathon champion.
“That’s Nike’s call [on shutting down NOP],” said Rupp, who wore Nike clothing at a press conference, but not the usual Oregon Project gear he’s accustomed to donning. “Obviously, I respect their decision. But that’s something that’s out of my hands.
“I will reiterate that no Oregon Project athlete has ever tested positive. They’ve never been found to use a banned substance, a banned method.”
As for the marathon itself, Rupp is a bit of an unknown.
His last race of any kind was in Chicago last year, when he dropped from the leaders around mile 19 and finished fifth. An Achilles injury flared up near the end of the 26.2 miles, and he underwent surgery later that month for two tears.
“I really haven’t been able to have the normal buildup,” he said, noting “small bumps in the road” prevented him from running a tune-up race like a half marathon. “I feel really good where I’m at now.”
Rupp remains the favorite for the Olympic trials on Feb. 29 because the U.S. lacks men who can consistently break 2:10. Rupp has done that in all four of his finished marathons in this Olympic cycle.
Rupp’s primary competition in Chicago will be Brit Mo Farah, his longtime training partner who left Salazar and the Oregon Project in 2017, citing a desire to move back home. Farah is the defending champion.
The women’s race features another Salazar-trained Oregon Project runner, Jordan Hasay. Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history, said she has had no contact of any kind with Salazar since the ban.
“He’s very, very close to me, and usually the last few weeks before the marathon are really fun because he starts getting anxious and starts calling three times a day about, oh, make sure you bring your gray socks instead of white socks and this and that. Little stuff,” Hasay told media in Chicago. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m pretty much able to coach myself. … But just in the sense of having that mentorship there and that friendship, those last moments of advice and excitement before the race, that’s definitely been tough. I miss that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk