Former University of Oregon distance star Eric Jenkins has joined the Portland-based Nike Oregon Project.

Jenkins announced the decision Monday.

“We’re very excited,” Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar said. “Eric has a chance to be the next, great American distance runner.”

Jenkins said the opportunity to train with Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Cam Levins, Matthew Centrowitz and others was too good pass up.

“They’re so accomplished and so successful, you can’t beat those kind of training partners,” Jenkins said.

Farah won gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in the 2012 Olympics, and won this year’s 10,000 at the World Outdoor Championships, now taking place in Beijing.

Rupp won the silver medal in the 10,000 at the 2012 Olympics, and is the U.S outdoor record-holder at that distance.

Centrowitz is a two-time world outdoor championships medalist in the 1,500, and placed fourth in the 2012 Olympics.

Levins is a Canadian Olympian and two-time NCAA champion.

Jenkins made his decision despite allegations made in stories appearing on the Pro Publica website and in a BBC television show in June that Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar has violated the sport’s anti-doping rules.

None of the allegations has been proven. No Oregon Project runner ever has failed a drug test.

Salazar emphatically denied the allegations, and posted a long and meticulously documented response in an open letter to buttress his denials.

When the allegations first surfaced, “it first was a huge concern for me,” Jenkins said. “Like everyone, I kind of jumped to conclusions.

“But when Alberto’s statement came out, I read the whole thing. I was really happy with it. I thought he was really thorough. I’m not concerned anymore.”

Salazar and Jenkins discussed the possibility of teaming up shortly after the college season. But Salazar said he advised the runner to wait.

“I wanted him not to feel pressured to make an early decision,” Salazar said. “I told him to take his time and look at some other programs to be sure. That was better than jumping in with us right away when every thing was crazy. I didn’t want him criticized.”

Jenkins looked, and apparently didn’t find any substance to the allegations.

“They will find Jimmy Hoffa’s body first,” Salazar said.

Jenkins transferred from Northeastern to Oregon in 2013, and enjoyed a breakout senior season for the Ducks in 2014-15.

He won individual titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He was second to teammate Edward Cheserek in the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Jenkins said he expects a relatively easy transition from the way he was training with Oregon men’s distance coach Andy Powell.

“The workouts we were doing are similar to stuff Alberto does,” Jenkins said. “The weight-lifting routine is similar.”

That was another factor in deciding to join the Oregon Project.

“There are other professional groups out there that are very good and would include very accomplished training partners,” Jenkins said. “But I think what tipped it is that this will be an easier transition.

“A lot of people have a tough first year as a professional. With next year being an Olympic year, I’m hoping to have the smoothest transition possible.”

Despite coming off a long college season, Jenkins already has debuted well as a professional.

He placed seventh in the 5,000 final at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships.

Running in Europe this summer, Jenkins set personal records in the 1,500 of 3 minutes, 38.98 seconds, in the 3,000 of 7:41.79 and in the 5,000 of 13:07.33.

— Ken Goe

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503-221-8040 | @KenGoe

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