Salazar, Rupp accused of doping
A detailed investigative report released Wednesday by the BBC and the U.S. website ProPublica accuses legendary U.S. track coach Alberto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project of violating anti-doping rules and pressuring athletes to use prescription medication.
Former University of Oregon track star Galen Rupp is at the center of the report, which claims that Rupp has been on performance enhancers of some form for many years.
Salazar and Rupp deny any wrongdoing.
“I believe in a clean sport and hard work and so do my athletes,” Salazar said in a statement Wednesday. “Apparently that is not interesting enough for some. I am very disappointed that the BBC and ProPublica and their ‘reporters’ ... have allowed themselves to be used by individuals with agendas and have engaged in such inaccurate and unfounded journalism. Rather than present the facts, they opted for sensationalism and innuendo. It is particularly sad that they have attacked Galen and his excellent reputation, which he has earned through years of hard work.”
Rupp’s agent, Ricky Simms did not return an email from The Register-Guard seeking comment.
In the report, former Nike Oregon Project athletes and a former assistant coach spoke out against Salazar and the Portland-based project.
“He is sort of a win-at-all-costs person and it’s hurting the sport,” Olympic distance runner Kara Goucher told reporter David Epstein of ProPublica.
Goucher left the Oregon Project in 2011 after seven years with the professional training group. She won a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships.
According to the report, allegations against Salazar — from Goucher, former assistant coach Steve Magness and others — include experimenting with doping aids, such as testosterone; and giving athletes prescription medications they didn’t need in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage from their side effects.
Goucher alleges Salazar wanted her to take the thyroid drug Cytomel to lose weight in 2011 after the birth of her son. She said Salazar knew she did not have a prescription for Cytomel and her doctor advised her against taking the drug.
The story said Goucher and at least six other former Salazar athletes and staff members have gone to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with their concerns. It said the USADA has not confirmed or denied any investigations.
The report states Rupp uses asthma and thyroid medication and alleges his use of testosterone goes as far back as 2002 when he was 16 and attending Central Catholic High School in Portland.
Rupp, now 29, has never failed a drug test, nor has any member of the Oregon Project. According to the USADA’s public testing data, Rupp passed 28 drug tests in 2013 — more than any other American — and 17 in 2012.
Salazar says he’s “strictly followed” rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“No athlete within the Oregon Project uses a medication against the spirit of the sport we love,” Salazar wrote in an email to the BBC and ProPublica. “Any medication taken is done so on the advice and under the supervision of registered medical professionals.”
Rupp won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Games in London in 2012, finishing behind another of Salazar’s leading runners, Mo Farah of Great Britain. The story said no doping accusations have been made against Farah, who won the men’s 10,000 meters last Friday during the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field. Rupp finished third in the 5,000 meters that same night in what was his first race of the outdoor season.
Magness, who worked at the Oregon project in 2011, said in an interview he saw a document containing Rupp’s blood levels that showed he was on “testosterone medication.”
“When I saw that, I kind of jumped backward,” Magness told the BBC. “Testosterone is obviously banned. ... Everybody knew that. When I looked a little further I saw it was all the way back in high school — and that was incredibly shocking.”
Magness, who is now the head cross country coach at the University of Houston, later questioned Salazar about the document, who said it had been a mistake, according to the BBC. Salazar told the BBC in a statement that the legal nutritional supplement Testoboost had been incorrectly recorded in the document as “testosterone medication.”
He also said the “allegations your sources are making are based upon false assumptions and half-truths in an attempt to further their personal agendas.”
Rupp also strongly denied taking banned substances.
“I am completely against the use of performance-enhancing drugs,” he told the BBC. “I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance.”
Other allegations in the report:
In 2008, massage therapist John Stiner told ProPublica that he found testosterone medication in Salazar’s condo in Park City, Utah, where Oregon Project does its altitude training. At Salazar’s request, Stiner cleaned up the condo and shipped items back to Salazar in Portland, including a tube of Androgel, a testosterone medication prescribed for men. Salazar told Stiner it was for his heart. Stiner grew suspicious later when he discovered Androgel isn’t for people with serious heart trouble. Salazar had a heart attack the previous year.
Magness said Salazar had Rupp take prednisone, a corticosteroid often used for asthma, before a 2011 meet in Germany, without an official therapeutic exemption. Magness was then directed by Salazar to fly to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to have Rupp’s urine tested.
“They did that to see if it tested positive,” Magness says. “I hand-carried Galen’s urine through the airport, onto the plane, and into my rental car and drove to this clinic and dropped it off, and that was it.” He never learned the result of the test.
Later in Germany, according to Magness, Rupp received a box at his hotel room from Salazar that contained a book with a section of pages hollowed out to form a compartment holding two pills that Rupp promptly took. Neither Salazar nor Rupp responded to questions about the hollowed-out book containing pills.
Salazar, who ran at the UO for another legendary coach, Bill Dellinger, went on to win the New York City Marathon three times, and in 1981 set a world record for the marathon of 2:08.13. He started the Oregon Project in 2001 in an attempt to build an American distance program that could contend on the world stage.