ATHLETICS Panorama: Nike Oregon Project closed in view of Salazar’s suspension

Former Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar

The 30 September suspension of Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar and consultant Dr. Jeffrey Brown has led to the closure of the program.

The details were provided in a lengthy Friday story on written by Christa Sgobba, which included comments from a Nike memorandum provided to the magazine.

Per Nike chief executive Mark Parker:

“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.”

This leaves the current Nike Oregon Project athletes coachless, including Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay, who will be competing in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, as well as IAAF World Championships stars Donavan Brazier (USA/men’s 800 m gold), Yomif Kejelcha (ETH/men’s 10,000 m silver), Sifan Hassan (NED/women’s 1,500 m/10,000 m gold) and Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER/women’s 5,000 m bronze), among others.

Parker’s memo also included a note that the company would help the NOP athletes as “they choose the coaching set up that is right for them.”

These athletes and those who have previously been part of the NOP program – founded in 2001, and including Olympic champs Mo Farah (GBR) and Matthew Centrowitz (USA) – will now be the subject of continued inquiry. International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach (GER) noted that the IOC Executive Board was briefed on the case earlier this month:

“We have also discussed the Salazar case, which is very worrying and raises serious concerns, but we are confident that [the World Anti-Doping Agency] will look into this case very carefully, and will follow up on the questions which remain open. After this report … the IOC will write a letter to WADA in this respect.”

Asked about the questions the IOC had, he added:

“First of all, to see how many athletes have been investigated, have all the athletes been investigated who were training in this center, does the report address the whole period of the existence of this project, or only part of it, could there [be] any results – Olympic results – be affected, directly or indirectly with regard to also the principle of strict liability, because we learned from this report that the athletes would not have known what happened to them.

“This is an important factor when it comes to suspensions or sanctions, but for disqualification from an event is mandatory under the principle of strict liability, whether the athlete knew or not. It’s just about the presence of the substance in the body or the application of the prohibited methods.

“But we are very confident that WADA is looking into this anyway, so we are waiting for the advice of WADA in this respect.”

So Nike’s closure of the program is only at the beginning of the story, not at all the end.