In a lengthy response to stories by ProPublica and the BBC, Salazar addresses the allegations of former athletes and staff that he broke drug rules
Three weeks after ProPublica and the BBC reported allegations
that Alberto Salazar, the iconic coach of the Nike Oregon Project, had experimented with testosterone and broken drug rules, Salazar posted a detailed, two-part response
on the group’s website.
Salazar disputed several allegations that were not made in the stories, or inaccurately described allegations that were. He also confirmed others, admitting, for example, he tested testosterone gel on both of his sons.
Salazar said the claims in the ProPublica and BBC stories
are based on lies by disgruntled former athletes and employees or misunderstandings of his recommendations or conduct.
“I will never permit doping. Oregon Project athletes must fully comply with the WADA Code and IAAF Rules,” Salazar said in the lengthy post.
The three-time winner of the New York City Marathon said he had pushed himself so hard as an athlete that “I still suffer today the negative physical effects of my excessive training … but will not hurt my athletes like I hurt myself.” His athletes, he said, have appropriate documentation for any medications, and he has never helped an athlete gain a medical exemption or prescription they didn’t need.
Salazar reserved particular ire for Steve Magness, a former Oregon Project assistant coach and current head cross-country coach at the University of Houston, who made several of the most contentious allegations. Magness told ProPublica and the BBC that he left the Oregon Project in 2012 by mutual agreement with Salazar after he became disillusioned with the coach’s approach to medicine.
In his response, Salazar said “Magness did not leave the Oregon Project. The Oregon Project terminated his contract in 2012.”
Prior to the publication of the initial stories, Magness provided ProPublica and the BBC with a “Mutual Termination of Contract” letter from Nike. The letter, dated June 27, 2012, starts: “Dear Steve, As discussed, both you and NIKE have decided to terminate your NIKE contract … As such, this letter shall acknowledge the mutual decision to terminate the contract, effective immediately.” The short letter ends with: “We would like to thank you for your association with NIKE. Should an opportunity present itself to work together again in the future, NIKE would welcome consideration of such an opportunity.” Emails from Salazar, provided by Magness, express “complete confidence” in him just one month earlier.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is investigating Salazar and that “more than a dozen witnesses have been interviewed and USADA is actively pursuing documents and other evidence from Salazar.”
Salazar was provided with an extensive list of questions a month prior to the initial ProPublica and BBC stories. He only answered a select group of them.
Salazar began today’s rebuttal by addressing an allegation about Salazar’s star athlete, Galen Rupp, that neither ProPublica nor the BBC made: “The claims that Galen has been on prednisone continuously since he was 15 are absolutely false.”
ProPublica and the BBC published a document showing that Rupp, who won the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics, had apparently taken prednisone during one time period when he was 16. The story did not report allegations of continuous use nor cite the age 15.
Salazar also said the article falsely reported that Rupp had received therapeutic use exemptions [TUE] by manipulating the TUE system and that he had received “numerous TUEs for multiple different treatments.” TUEs are exemptions that are granted to allow athletes to use otherwise restricted drugs or treatments. No such assertions were made in the story.
ProPublica and the BBC gave no accounting of TUEs given to Rupp in an elite running career that spans more than a decade. Salazar stressed that Rupp “has only received two TUEs in his running career since 2010.”
Salazar also noted that TUEs “are a rare occurrence in the Oregon Project.” No allegation about the prevalence of TUEs among Oregon Project athletes was made.
One of the most controversial elements of the ProPublica and BBC stories was an allegation that Rupp, Salazar’s longtime star, may have used testosterone while still in high school. Magness provided a photograph of a Nike Lab document that included a 2002 notation by a scientist that said Rupp was…