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Doping, Coercion, and Cover Ups – Inside Nike’s Oregon Project

nike project oregon salazar mo farah
Salazar with, left to right, Cam Levins, Mo Farah and Rupp during training at the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore., in 2013. Credit Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The New York Times and The Times of London have been reporting on the Oregon Project, Nike’s elite distance running team led by coach Alberto Salazar, which allegedly used legally dubious performance enhancement methods.

The entire story revolves around Alberto Salazar — a former world-class long distance runner — the coach seemingly hired to produce winners for Nike, all in order to elevate the status of long distance running int he United States.

According to The New York Times, Dathan Ritzenhein, an Olympic distance runner for Team USA, and Salazar began to butt heads over Ritzenhein’s thyroid medication. The drug was strongly recommended by Salazar due to its performance benefits, but it was making Ritzenhein ill.

Medically obscure performance enhancements — sometimes coercive — and more experiences like Ritzenhein’s were seemingly commonplace on Nike’s Oregon Project, according to a confidential report written by the United Stated Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that was obtained by The New York Times.

Ritzenhein questioned the legality of a L-carnitine infusion procedure Salazar wanted him to receive. “Is this legal? This doesn’t sound legal,” said Ritzenhein.

Moreover, Ritzenhein said that when his performance suffered Nike began making fewer payments to him. He believed his options were simple: accept the infusions or leave the Oregon Project. And when he did not run fast enough to qualify for the Olympic team at the marathon trials in 2012, Nike cut his expected $200,000 salary for the year in half.

There is so much more to this story, which includes Mo Farah, a Nike athlete who recently got lots of attention when he wrote a public letter denouncing President Trump’s immigration policy.

The New York Times and Times of London have done some excellent reporting — to get the full story, head over to those sites. Trust me, it’s really worth the read.

nike project oregon salazar mo farah
Salazar with, left to right, Cam Levins, Mo Farah and Rupp during training at the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore., in 2013. Credit Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
  1. Much like cycling, this sport is impossible to do without ‘help’, you’d literally die if you ran that fast without doping, the sad part is of course how political it is, Lance Armstrong got caught, but right now, Team Sky(Wiggins/Froome) is doing exactly what his Discovery-team did. The really worrying part is, that since a British National is leading WADA British Athletes are tested less, and winning more.

    In running things are still more anonymous, and clearly buried deep(as these articles show) but it’s just as messed up, I guess we now know how they’re really planning on Breaking2.

  2. Didn’t Nike recently have a commercial centered around “Equality”….

    I wonder what other Nike athletes are up to to keep their performance higher than the competition.

  3. At this point another solution might be to just allow use whatever substances to be used. And just be transparent about what it is your using.

    Any way this is not like MMA or amercan football where you can kill or injure your competitor if he is not juicing and you are.

    1. That’s probably THE solution, especially since the things they’re taking could be used in conventional-medicine to help actual patients beat diseases we struggle managing at the moment.

  4. The real hypocritical thing about the general perspective on doping is this good vs evil kind of thing.
    Of course it is stupid to pump some unsave and untested stuff in your venes from which you will obviously die in your 40ties or if you are a though one in your 50ties.
    But it’s not evil. It’s stupid.
    On the other hand every clean athlete is a saint for not doing the evil. This view couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of them just find ways to trick the system wheter its paying for the knowledge when a test is done or just using stuff there is no test method for yet.
    The simple truth is there are next to none pro athletes in this world and no record that isn’t based on some kind of enhancement.
    The only realistic chance to take apart this cruel system is to totally legalise all this stupid stuff. This way it would be clear as to wheter the sponsors or the spectators are after more and more unhuman records. My guess is the common spectator (not the money laundering sports bet type) will watch eyery sporting event with joy as long as there is some fair competition to be seen.
    The solution for nearly every sport would be simple cathegories. A “Modified” cathegory to display what a maximum result with all the drugs in the world really does look like and a clean cathegory in which records hold no value but healty sports does.
    This way the existing system in which the athlete has no real choice what he wants to do to his body would implode and sponsor companies would think twice to which world record they put their name to it and make money from because nothing of the usual tactics would work anymore. To say we are clean today only means we will do everything to fool the spectators, the fans, the consumers…
    An athlete today that really says no to the existing system can’t have a career in sports. That is the fact that has to be changed.

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