Nike Oregon Project shutting down after Alberto Salazar ban

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The Nike Oregon Project is being shut down by the apparel giant, one week after its founder, distance-running coach Alberto Salazar, was handed a four-year ban from a six-year U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Investigation.

“While the panel found there was no orchestrated doping, no finding that performance enhancing drugs have ever been used on Oregon Project athletes and went out of its way to note Alberto’s desire to follow all rules, unfortunately, Alberto can no longer coach while the appeal is pending,” Nike CEO Mark Parker said in an internal memo reported by media Thursday night. “This situation, along with ongoing unsubstantiated assertions, is a distraction for many of the athletes and is compromising their ability to focus on their training and competition needs. I have therefore made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project. We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them. And, as we have said, we will continue to support Alberto in his appeal as a four-year suspension for someone who acted in good faith is wrong.”

The Nike Oregon Project, created in 2001 after the top U.S. finish in the Boston Marathon was sixth, has included some of the world’s top distance runners — formerly Olympic champions Mo Farah and Matthew Centrowitz (who both left before Salazar’s ban) and currently Olympic and world medalists Galen RuppSifan HassanDonavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy.

Rupp and another Oregon Project star, Jordan Hasay, are scheduled to race the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

Last week, USADA said in a news release that an arbitration panel decided on the four-year penalty for Salazar and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone while training top runners at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP).

In a statement released by NOP, Salazar said he was shocked by the arbitration outcome, and that he would appeal. He said throughout a six-year investigation, he and his athletes “endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from the USADA.”

“The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping,” Salazar said.

The existence of the long-running USADA investigation became public after a 2015 report by BBC and ProPublica that detailed some of Salazar’s practices, which included use of testosterone gel and infusions of a supplement called L-carnitine that, when mixed with insulin, can greatly enhance athletic performance.

The 61-year-old Cuban born coach was a college star at Oregon, who went on to win four major marathon titles, in New York and Boston, from 1980-82.

USADA’s dogged pursuit of him in a difficult case that never directly implicated any of his athletes was a reminder of how track’s doping issues stretch well beyond the Russian scandal that has overtaken the sport over the last several years.

USADA said it relied on more than 2,000 exhibits between the two cases and that proceedings included nearly 5,800 pages of transcripts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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