Alberto Salazar denies doping allegations involving Galen Rupp, Nike Oregon … – OregonLive.com
In an open letter posted on the Oregon Project website, Salazar defended Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp, saying Rupp has been treated most of his life for asthma and Hashimoto’s disease, a thyroid disorder, under a doctor’s supervision.
Salazar wrote that in 2013 Rupp provided the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with over 500 pages of medical records documenting his treatment for asthma and thyroid desease.
Salazar’s open letter is a methodical, point-by-point, 28-page response to specific allegations of doping and misuse of prescription drugs to aid performance. It frequently is buttressed by documentation that includes medical records, emails and correspondence with U.S Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“I will never permit doping,” Salazar wrote in the response, adding: “I have not and will not condone any athlete I train using a banned substance and would never encourage any athlete to use a banned substance.”
The Oregon Project is an elite training group of distance runners that currently includes British star Mo Farah, who won two gold medals in the 2012 Olympics, two-time world championships medalist Matthew Centrowitz and Rupp, an Olympic silver medalist in 2012.
The key players
Alberto Salazar: A former distance runner who starred at the University of Oregon and as a professional. Won three consecutive New York Marathons in the ’80s and the 1982 Boston Marathon. Started the Nike Oregon Project in 2001 to bring back U.S. distance running. He is the only coach Galen Rupp ever has had.
Galen Rupp: A soccer player at Central Catholic in Portland when Salazar (then cross country at coach at Central Catholic) talked him into becoming a distance runner. Has been a rising star ever since. He won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters in the 2012 Olympics, and holds the U.S. outdoor record in the 10,000.
Adam Goucher: Was a college distance star at the University of Colorado and a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. He had a successful professional career when not injured. He ran for the Oregon Project from 2004-11. He is now retired.
Kara Goucher: Was a three-time NCAA champion at Colorado, and is the wife of Adam Goucher. She has had a successful professional career, winning the bronze medal in the 10,000 meters in the 2007 World Championships and making the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 and 2012. She ran for the Oregon Project from 2004-11, and for the Portland-based Bowerman Track Club until 2013. She now is based in Boulder, Colorado.
Steve Magness: The distance coach at the University Houston, and was an assistant coach with the Oregon Project from 2010-12. He is a Ph.D. student in exercise science and published author.
John Stiner: A massage therapist who worked for the Oregon Project in 2008.
Allen Kupczak: A massage therapist who worked for the Oregon Project from 2008-11.
The group is based on the Nike campus near Portland. It was founded in 2001 by Salazar, a University of Oregon graduate and three-time winner of the New York Marathon.
This is Salazar’s most definitive statement about the allegations, following two shorter written statements. He has yet to speak publicly about the controversy, which has become an international story in the sport of track and field.
Salazar offered documentation in his rebuttal that he said supports his claim he didn’t break the rules.
Salazar and Rupp were singled out in allegations made by former Oregon Project runners Adam and Kara Goucher, former assistant coach Steve Magness and John Stiner, a massage therapist who worked with the group in 2008.
“At best, they are misinformed,” Salazar wrote. “At worst, they are lying.”
Rupp has not commented publicly on the allegations other than an initial statement denying any wrongdoing shortly after the original ProPublica and BBC reports.
Some of the allegations:
• That Salazar had Rupp taking the banned drug testosterone when he was a teen.
Salazar writes that Magness drew this conclusion from a mistaken entry in Rupp’s medical records. He notes that Magness “inappropriately” photographed and retained one of Rupp’s medical records and made the photograph public three years after Salazar fired him.
Salazar writes that the notation on the medical record referred to a legal supplement obtained over the counter, and that Rupp’s medical records do not show him ever being prescribed testosterone.
Salazar writes that a tube of testosterone gel found by Stiner in a condo in Park City, Utah, shared by Salazar and Rupp was prescribed for Salazar. He discloses he has been prescribed testosterone for a quarter century, and provides documentation.
Reports from ProPublica and the BBC contained a number of allegations:
• Rupp allegedly used prednisone – used to treat asthma and banned in international competition without obtaining a therapeutic use exemption – despite not getting the exemption.
• Rupp allegedly used some form of the banned drug testosterone as early as 16.
• Salazar allegedly used his son Alex to experiment with small doses of testosterone to determine how much would trigger a positive drug test.
• A massage therapist cleaning out a condominium in Park City, Utah, shared by Rupp and Salazar says he found a tube of testosterone gel in the bathroom. He also found hypodermic needles and refrigerated vials containing liquid labeled as allergy medicine.
• Salazar allegedly suggested that Kara Goucher take some of Rupp’s thyroid medication, and even brought her a bottle containing it. She already was on a different form of thyroid medication. Her doctor told her not to use Rupp’s medication.
• Salazar allegedly coached Rupp about how to manipulate the therapeutic use exemption rules to get an IV drip of saline before races. An IV drip can be used for hydration. It also was used by Lance Armstrong to increase his blood plasma volume and mask use of performance enhancing drugs.
“My excessive training as an athlete did extensive damage to my body,” he writes. “One of the lingering negative effects from which I still suffer today is hypogonadism with significant symptoms, including multiple low testosterone serum levels. See Exhibit 26. Additionally, I have suffered from primary pituitary insufficiency, hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency as a result of my excessive training. These conditions are not new. I have been under the care and treatment of licensed medical doctors for them for approximately the past 25 years. They are also no secret. I fully disclosed and documented my conditions with the USATF and USOC decades ago.”
He writes that the hypodermic needles and refrigerated vials that Stiner found in the Park City condo were Rupp’s allergy medications prescribed by doctors in Portland.
“The extracts used by the Allergy Clinc in the vials provided to Galen are standardized extracts from Hollister-Stier, an American producer,” Salazar wrote. “Galen must receive weekly injections to help control his allergies and his asthma. All documents related to these medicines and Galen’s treatment for his allergies were provided to USADA in 2013.”
• That he encouraged former Oregon Project runner Kara Goucher to take thyroid medication prescribed for Rupp.
Salazar writes that he gave Goucher the medication, Cytomel, after being directed to do so by her endocrinologist, Jeffrey Brown, after she complained of feeling tired following cortisone injections. He documents this with the following email:
“Alberto, When did she get those injection? She should immediately start on the cytomel 5 micrograms twice a day. the 1st dose she should take with her levoxyl and the next 12 hours later and so on. Jeff”
Backing Salazar, Rupp
These past and present members of the Oregon Project said they never witnessed nor participated in doping or misuse of prescription drugs or therapeutic use exemptions while part of the training group.
Bob Williams: Assistant coach in 2004 and 2005. “Absolutely not. And we were privy to everything as coaches.”
Luke Puskedra: Distance runner who belonged to the Oregon Project in 2013 and 2014. It’s hard for me to believe some of the allegations.”
Shannon Rowbury: Mid-distance runner and current member of the Oregon Project. I’ve never seen (Salazar) do anything that would make me question him or my teammates. I have a clean record. I’ve never cheated. I never would.”
Cam Levins: Distance runner and current member of the Oregon Project. I can comment on Galen and Alberto. They’ve been very trustworthy. … I’ve never been pushed into anything considered to be a gray area that a lot of people have implied.”
Matthew Centrowitz: Mid-distance runner and current member of the Oregon Project: “I’ve roomed with Galen both in college and as a post-collegian. I’ve never seen anything that is suspect. I’ve never seem him take any medication that’s in the gray area.”
• That he coached Rupp on ways to manipulate therapeutic use exemptions, in which athletes can use otherwise banned medications or treatments for acute medical reasons.
Salazar writes that Rupp has received just two therapeutic use exemptions since 2010, and didn’t act on one of them.
• That Oregon Project athletes are encouraged to get thyroid and asthma medications to aid performance.
“I have coached 55 professional athletes in my career,” Salazar wrote. “Of those 55 athletes only 5 have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism after I had started coaching them and only 8 have been diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. That is 9.1% and 14.5% respectively. The incident rate for athletes in the Oregon Project being diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma is actually significantly lower than the incident rate amongst U.S. Olympic middle and long distance runners generally. A U.S. Olympic Committee study found that 21% of female and male mid-distance, long-distance, and marathon athletes on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team and 23% of female and male mid-distance, long-distance, and marathon athletes on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team had exercise-induced asthma.”
• To an allegation by Magness that Salazar sent mysterious medications to Rupp in Britain in 2011 concealed in a magazine and a hollowed-out book, Salazar concedes that he sent him prescriptions for Azithromycin-Pak tablets and a Nasonex inhaler in that way.
He contends Magness was aware of what the medications were and that he kept UK Athletics fully informed. He has email documentation to support this.
“While it probably wasn’t the best way to send these lawfully prescribed medications,” Salazar wrote, “I fully disclosed these actions to Galen, Magness and UK Athletics as they were happening.”
Salazar disputes that Magness left the Oregon Project because of ethical concerns, and contends that he fired the former assistant coach for performance-related reasons.
The Nike Oregon Project
A Nike-funded, Portland-based distance training group started by Alberto Salazar with the goal of making U.S. distance running competitive on the world level. Since its founding in 2001, the group has changed emphasis, and now includes foreign runners such as Mo Farah of Britain, Cam Levins of Canada and Suguru Osako of Japan.
Similarly, Salazar disputes the Gouchers’ contentions that they left because of ethical concerns.
Salazar contends that Adam Goucher was dropped from the team for performance-related reasons, and that Kara left because of a contentious relationship between Salazar and Adam.
He documents this with emails and a blog post from Kara Goucher.
In his conclusion, Salazar writes: “Let the haters hate; we’re going to keep winning through hard work dedication and fair play.”
After answering the allegations, Salazar demanded retractions from both ProPublica and the BBC.
Since the initial stories, ProPublica has written that 17 former athletes have spoken to the website of their concerns about Salazar’s methodology.
Nike issued a statement through its corporate communications office that read, in part, ‘we have conducted our own internal review and have found no evidence to support the allegations of doping.”
In separate interviews with current Oregon Project athletes, former Oregon Project assistant coach Bob Williams and former Oregon Project runner Luke Puskedra, The Oregonian/OregonLive has been unable to corroborate allegations made in ProPublica or in the BBC documentary.
— Ken Goe
503-221-8040 | @KenGoe