The Nike Oregon Project has shut down by the apparel giant, one week after its founder, distance-running coach Alberto Salazar was handed a four-year ban by the US Anti-Doping Agency Investigation.
The Nike Oregon Project’s website and social media channels have been taken down.
“While the panel found there was no orchestrated doping, no finding that performance enhancing drugs have ever been used on Oregon Project athletes and went out of its way to note Alberto’s desire to follow all rules, unfortunately, Alberto can no longer coach while the appeal is pending,” Nike CEO Mark Parker said in an internal memo. “This situation, along with ongoing unsubstantiated assertions, is a distraction for many of the athletes and is compromising their ability to focus on their training and competition needs. I have therefore made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project.
“We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them. And, as we have said, we will continue to support Alberto in his appeal as a four-year suspension for someone who acted in good faith is wrong.”
The Nike Oregon Project, created in 2001, has included some of the world’s top distance runners — formerly Olympic champions Mo Farah and Matthew Centrowitz (who both left before Salazar’s ban) and currently Olympic and world medalists Galen Rupp, Sifan Hassan, Donavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy.
Rupp and another Oregon Project star, Jordan Hasay, are scheduled to race the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.
Salazar, in a statement released by Nike Oregon Project, has said that he was shocked by the arbitration outcome, and that he would appeal. He had also accused USADA of unfair treatment, alleging he and his athletes “endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from the USADA”.
“The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping,” Salazar said.
The existence of the long-running USADA investigation became public after a 2015 report by BBC and ProPublica that detailed some of Salazar’s practices, which included use of testosterone gel and infusions of a supplement called L-carnitine that, when mixed with insulin, can greatly enhance athletic performance.
A Nike spokesperson has said the Salazar situation had become “an unfair burden” on athletes on the elite training programme. “Nike has always tried to put the athlete and their needs at the front of all of our decisions,” read the statement.
“This situation including uninformed innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions has become an unfair burden for current OP athletes. That is exactly counter to the purpose of the team.
“We have therefore made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project to allow the athletes to focus on their training and competition needs. We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them.”
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