A whistleblower in the case that resulted in Nike Oregon Project head coach Alberto Salazar’s doping ban is now seeking the program’s complete shutdown.
Kara Goucher, a long-distance runner who has twice represented the United States in the Olympics, has spoken out against the project a week after Salazar — who coached the athlete from 2004 to 2011 — was handed a four-year ban following an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
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“It [the NOP] has to go,” Goucher told BBC Sport on Sunday.
A six-year probe that included two evidentiary hearings and a post-hearing review process led the USADA to determine that Salazar had trafficked testosterone, a banned substance, tampered or attempted to tamper with the doping control process and administered a prohibited IV infusion.
The decision to sideline the coach came just two days after NOP runner Sifan Hassan nabbed a gold medal in the 10,000-meter race at the 2019 IAAF World Championships. (Salazar announced that he would appeal the ruling.)
“I feel really bad for the athletes because I’m sure many of them are innocent,” Goucher added, “but it’s not my decision.”
In 2013, the two-time Olympian became one of the first athletes to level allegations of doping against her former coach. She took her claims public in a BBC Panorama documentary that aired two years later, in which Goucher said that Salazar had told her to take thyroid medication to help in weight loss after she gave birth to her son in 2010.
In her latest interview with the British publication, Goucher also called out Nike, suggesting it should cut ties with Salazar.
“If I was Nike I’d be bringing in some new coaches and move on from this Oregon Project, because clearly it had principles not in line with clean sport and we have to just start over,” she said. “These athletes should do the right thing; staying in that uniform sends such a terrible message. They really need to shut it down and give athletes a chance to train under someone new and fresh.”
Nike CEO Mark Parker has denied any wrongdoing in a memo reportedly sent to staffers on Oct. 1, writing, “To have my name and Nike’s name linked to this reckless mischaracterization is offensive.”
This is not the first time Goucher has criticized Nike. Over the summer, she joined fellow runners Alysia Montaño and Allyson Felix in bringing attention to the brand’s maternity policy, alleging that athletes were paid less if they were unable to compete for various reasons including pregnancy and the postpartum period. (In August, Nike announced that it had further revised contracts to include more protections for pregnant athletes.)
FN has reached out to Nike for comment.
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