In a lengthy two-part open letter published on the Nike Oregon Project website Wednesday morning, Alberto Salazar, who founded the group in 2001 and serves as its head coach, addresses a recent BBC/ProPublica report containing allegations of doping and misuse of prescription drugs by former athletes and staff members, writing, “Former athletes, contractors and journalists make accusations in these stories, harming my athletes. At best they are misinformed. At worst, they are lying.”
Also on Wednesday, Nike issued an official statement through its corporate communications office, saying, “We take the allegations very seriously as Nike does not condone the use of performance enhancing drugs in any manner. Both Alberto and Galen have made their position clear and refute the allegations made against them, as shown in Alberto’s open letter. Furthermore we have conducted our own internal review and have found no evidence to support the allegations of doping.”
Salazar, who coaches double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, and has guided the training of Olympic 10,000m silver medalist and American record-holder Galen Rupp since he was in high school, goes on in Part I to systematically defend his group, Rupp, the use of thyroid and asthma medication by NOP members, as well as Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), offering evidence in the form of medical records and physician approvals that all medications, vitamins and therapeutic modalities fell within the constructs of anti-doping rules.
Also in Part I, Salazar addresses a test he conducted to see if it was possible for an athlete to test positive for testosterone after a race by having someone rub various doses of cream or gel into their body. “If it was possible, we wanted to make sure our post-race protocol was structured to eliminate this risk,” Salazar writes. “I was a bit naive and let my paranoia get the best of me here but there was never intent to do anything illegal.”
He concludes Part I by refuting allegations of suspicious behavior made by former assistant coach Steve Magness, who Salazar says was terminated in 2012, contrary to Magness’ claim that he left the group on his own terms. “It had nothing to do with seeing the mistake in Dr. Myhre’s log-book, nothing to do with supplements, nothing to do with TUEs,” Salazar writes, “but rather because in my opinion Magness proved to be a poor coach who had difficulty building rapport with world class athletes.”
In Part II of the open-letter, Salazar addresses claims made by Olympians Adam and Kara Goucher, whom he coached until 2011, writing “The Gouchers have made a number of allegations against me in the BBC and ProPublica stories that are not true.” Kara Goucher claims Salazar told her to use Cytomel, a thyroid medication, to lose weight following the birth of her son. Salazar writes, “That is just not true. I was thrilled with Kara’s weight, body compostion and fitness in 2011, and I told her so. She had lost weight, but she had added muscle and lowered her body fat. I did not think she needed to lose additional weight and I did not want her to lose any more weight.” He goes on to provide a timeline of events and email exchanges between he and Goucher expressing that he was “thrilled” with her weight and body composition prior to the 2011 Boston Marathon, where Goucher finished fifth in 2:24:52.
Salazar goes on to write that he never requested an IV or saline drip for Galen Rupp at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, as Goucher claims he did, and he takes issue with Goucher’s statement regarding Rupp’s American record in the 10,000m that “You don’t get to the end of a long year burnt out and take two weeks off and come out and run the best race of your life, that’s not how it works. You have to rest. You have to recover. You have to start all over again.” In response to Goucher, Salazar says that she is wrong on many levels and calls her attacks on Rupp “baseless.” He concludes his section on the Gouchers saying he terminated their relationship with the Oregon Project because he could not coach Kara if Adam—who Salazar says was exhibiting belligerent and insulting behavior toward him—was involved in her workouts, race planning and travel arrangements.
Following his addressing of the Gouchers’ claims, Salazar tackles allegations from former Oregon Project massage therapist John Stiner that he was asked to mail Androgel—a prescription testosterone medication—and an over-the-counter supplement called Alpha Male back to Salazar’s Portland home from their Park City training camp in 2008. Salazar writes, “That happened; I asked him to send back items, including my prescription medicine and the supplements. His description of what I said is not accurate…I have a valid prescription for Androgel. While this is something I would not like to air publicly, I am forced to do so to protect my athletes. As I stated above, my excessive training as an athlete did extensive damage to my body. One of the lingering negative effects from which I still suffer today is hypogonadism with significant symptoms, including multiple low testosterone serum levels. 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, IAAF and USOC decades ago. There is no question that I have a valid justification for my possession of Androgel as defined by the WADA Code.”
After addressing claims from an “Anonymous Mike” that he was instructed to take testosterone in 2007, Salazar demands that BBC and ProPublica immediately publish retractions of their stories. He concludes by writing, “You win: people will try to tear you down. That’s not my world. That’s not the Oregon Project. Here, success is earned with talent, hard work, dedication and fair play…. and, that’s how it is going to stay. Let the haters hate; we’re going to keep winning through hard work, dedication and fair play.”