Nike Oregon Project’s Salazar handed four-year ban for doping violations

Coach Alberto Salazar talks about the Nike's Oregon Project on the Nike campus on April 13, 2013 in Beaverton, Oregon. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The US Anti-Doping Agency has announced that it has handed American track coach Alberto Salazar a four-year ban from the sport for doping violations committed while he was head of the Nike Oregon Project.

USADA said that the punishment was for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct”.

Endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown, who worked alongside Salazar at the NOP, received an identical punishment, with both men banned for trafficking and administering testosterone among other violations.

Their suspensions began on Monday, and the International Association of Athletics Federations has revoked their credentials for its ongoing World Championships in Doha, Qatar. 

The former distance runner and close friend of Nike founder Phil Knight established the NOP in 2001 with the intention of creating a Nike-funded talent stream for US-based athletes to help to break the long-distance dominance of East Africans. 

While athletics is a relatively small revenue generator for Nike, Salazar helped to make it a huge part of the brand’s corporate identity, particularly in its home state of Oregon, which has become the US’ capital of track and field. Eugene, the city where Nike was founded, will host the next IAAF World Championships in 2021.

The NOP has released a statement expressing Salazar’s shock at the ban, confirming that he intends to appeal. Salazar claims he has “endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from Usada” during the course of its long-running investigation into his conduct. 

The ban is the culmination of a six-year investigation, details of which were first made public after a 2015 report from the BBC which detailed Salazar’s use of testosterone to enhance athletic performance. 

At that time, Salazar was coaching four-time Olympic gold medal-winning British athlete Mo Farah. UK Athletics carried out its own investigation into Salazar, but cleared Farah to continue working with the coach. Farah issued a statement today stating that he “has no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line.”

SportBusiness has reached out to UK Athletics for further comment.