Usada’s Tygart criticises Nike involvement in Salazar scandal

Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), has heavily criticised Nike’s involvement in the Alberto Salazar doping scandal and called on sponsors to do more to protect clean sport.

In September Usada suspended Salazar, the head coach of the high-profile Nike Oregon Project long-distance running group, for four years for ‘multiple anti-doping rule violations’.

An investigation by the anti-doping agency revealed that Dr Jeffrey Brown, a consultant for the project, was updating Nike chief executive Mark Parker about the project’s doping experiments. The brand took the decision to shut the Nike Oregon Project down after the Salazar suspension.

Tygart told L’Équipe today (Monday): “I was disappointed by their approach. The rules were broken under their roof and under the responsibility of their coach and doctor. What happened was done with Nike’s permission. They must apologise for the serious mistakes made and ensure that this will no longer be possible.”

Nike has also launched an internal investigation into allegations Salazar was responsible for the ‘emotional and physical abuse’ of former US athlete Mary Cain.

Salazar denies giving athletes performance-enhancing drugs while Nike has claimed Parker was kept abreast of a hormonal cream experiment out of fear Nike athletes might be sabotaged by other athletes rubbing cream onto them.

Tygart claimed Nike was more motivated by the desire to protect its image rather than to “do the right thing” and called on the brand and other sponsors to invest more in clean sport.

“Their goal should not be to win at all costs or to win in a context where you are doing things against the rules or potentially against the law, as the judges have determined. Television [broadcasters] and sponsors like Nike should do more to protect the value of sport.

“Nike escapes any consequences. When you are a sponsor, you must take your responsibility, acknowledge your mistakes and redouble your efforts to encourage a clean sport.”

The new president-elect of Wada, Witold Bańka, has also called on sport’s commercial sponsors to contribute financially toward the fight against doping. Bańka told delegates at last week’s World Conference on Doping in Sport that getting sponsors to supplement Wada’s $40m (£31/€36m) budget with additional funding was “one of the biggest tasks” facing him when he replaces outgoing Wada president Sir Craig Reedie at the start of 2020.

Asked whether Bańka would be able to effect any changes, Tygart said: “There are many other things that need to be changed than the president in order for the Wada boat to go in the right direction. In the past, it was going in the right direction but not anymore because the IOC has too much control. We need more truly independent personalities on the agency’s executive committee.

“I hope that Bańka, as a former athlete, will make his decisions for the sake of clean athletes, that he will appreciate these interests not for the good of sport but for the sake of clean athletes.”