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Nike shuts down Oregon Project following Salazar ban

Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar watches the Men's 10,000 metre run during day one of the 2015 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

US sportswear company Nike has moved to shut down its Oregon Project training programme after head coach Alberto Salazar was last week handed a four-year ban from athletics for doping violations committed while leading the initiative.

Salazar (pictured) was handed the ban last week by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), which said the punishment was for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct”.

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

Nike has moved quickly to close down the Project, with its website and social media channels having been taken down.

In a statement provided to the RunnersWorld website, Nike chairman, president and chief executive Mark Parker said: “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.”

Parker added that the Usada panel had found no “orchestrated doping” or evidence that performance-enhancing drugs had been used on athletes that were part of the Project. Parker also said that Nike would support its athletes in choosing a new coaching setup following the shuttering of the Oregon Project.

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

Salazar has helped develop athletics into a major part of Nike’s corporate identity, particularly in its home state of Oregon. The city of Eugene will host the International Association of Athletics Federations’ World Championships in 2021.

Salazar is appealing the Usada ban and claimed he has “endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment” from the agency.