Guide to the Doping Allegations Against the Nike Oregon Project – Runner's World Newswire
On June 3, a BBC documentary and concurrent ProPublica article alleged that Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar encouraged the team’s runners to take prescription drugs for which they had no medical need in the hope that they would gain a competitive edge.
In the reports, former Oregon Project assistant coach Steve Magness and former Oregon Project runner Kara Goucher described incidents they said abused the system of therapeutic use exemptions, or TUEs, which allow athletes to take for medical reasons prescription medications normally not allowed by anti-doping rules.
After the reports appeared, Salazar affirmed his belief “in a clean sport and hard work” and charged that the reporters had been “used by individuals with agendas and have engaged in such inaccurate and unfounded journalism.” Salazar has said he will comment publicly at length, and with exculpatory details, about the charges leveled against him. A time and venue for Salazar’s rebuttal have not been announced.
Since the initial reports, there have been near-daily developments. Here’s a quick look at the main ones.
A June 12 article by ProPublica reporter David Epstein raised to 17 the number of athletes and Oregon Project staffers who have described to Epstein what they considered to be inappropriate prescription drug use orchestrated by Salazar. Speaking anonymously, two former members recounted being advised to run hard immediately before an asthma test to increase the chance of getting a prescription inhaler.
Epstein’s subsequent ProPublica article focused on Lauren Fleshman, a two-time USATF 5000-meter champion (and now a Runner’s World columnist), who was a long-time Nike athlete but was not coached by Salazar. Fleshman said Salazar helped her get treatment for exercise-induced asthma, but that she began to feel uncomfortable when he pointed out how higher doses of the prescribed medication could boost her running performances.
The initial reports included the detail, seen in a photo Magness took, that Galen Rupp’s blood chart from 2002, when he was in high school, included the phrase “testosterone medication.” Although many observers interpreted the wording to indicate that Rupp was being administered testosterone, some medical professionals told Runner’s World Newswire the wording could mean that Rupp was taking a supplement to boost his testosterone level. (When asked by ProPublica to comment on the document, Salazar and Rupp said the notation referred to a nutritional supplement called Testoboost that Rupp was taking to counter unspecified negative effects of the prescription medication prednisone.)
John Cook, a veteran coach who worked with the Oregon Project from 2003 to 2005, told Newswire he was “not surprised” by the allegations of prescription medicine abuse in the original reports.
Josh Rohatinsky, a former NCAA cross country champion who trained with the Oregon Project, wrote on Facebook that he believed the witnesses in the original reports, that there was a wall of secrecy between Salazar and Rupp and the rest of the group, and that Rupp’s progress from a collegiate runner he’d sometimes defeated to Olympic silver medalist was incredible “in the literal sense of the word.”
Rohatinsky followed with another Facebook post stating he was not making a “full-fledged accusation” against Salazar and that he possessed no “smoking gun” in the matter. At the same time, he wrote, “I do believe that lines have consciously and consistently been crossed in the form of improper prescription/medication usage, gaming of the system, potential micro-dosing, etc.”
John Stiner, who worked as a massage therapist for Oregon Project athletes at Park City, Utah, in 2008, told the Daily Mail that he’d seen at least 25 unused hypodermic needles in a bag at the training camp along with bottles of testosterone boosters. Stiner claimed Salazar told him to keep some of the materials refrigerated and return them to him in Oregon.
In an interview with Letsrun.com after running at the Portland Track Festival last weekend, two-time Olympian and Oregon Project member Shannon Rowbury said, “I’m not on any TUE’s. I don’t take an inhaler.” Rowbury noted she was never coached by Magness nor was she a teammate of Goucher’s.
Britain’s Mo Farah, the Oregon Project’s 2012 Olympic 5000- and 10,000-meter gold medalist, was not implicated in the original reports. The Daily Mail reported that he’d missed two drug tests prior to the Olympics and that he’d faced the prospect of a four-year ban if he missed a third.
The Telegraph reported that Farah was at altitude in the French Pyrenees training on his own for a July 17 race in Monaco and had not seen his Nike Oregon Project teammates in Portland.
Salazar told the Oregonian that rumors of any rift between he and Farah were “absolutely false” and that was it common for Farah to remain in Europe each year while his American teammates prepare for the USA Track & Field Championships, which begin next week.
On June 19, Farah posted on Facebook that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs and that the two tests we’d missed were understood by authorities to be simple mistakes. Farah said he had met with Salazar in Oregon and was reassured by Salazar that the claims against him are false. Farah, whose wife is five months pregnant, said the media pressure on himself and his family is “extremely painful.”
Oregon Project member Matthew Centrowitz, the two-time World Championships 1500-meter medalist whose father was a running contemporary of Salazar’s, told the Oregonian that he’d roomed with Rupp during and after college and that “I’ve never seen anything that is suspect. I’ve never seem him take any medication that’s in the gray area.” Centrowitz said he himself doesn’t take “anything except vitamin C and iron.”
One person who hasn’t been heard from since his denial of the original reports is Rupp. He was signed up for two races last Sunday at the Portland Track Festival but his name was removed from the entry lists prior to the weekend. He is a declared entry in next week’s USATF Championships in Eugene, and has the fastest qualifying marks in the field in the 5000- and 10,000-meter races.