Documentary claims doping in Nike Oregon Project

Galen Rupp high fives the audience after his American record run.
Galen Rupp high fives the audience after his American record run.

A joint project between the BBC and investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica has published serious allegations over the use of banned substances and questionable practices surrounding the athletes in the Nike Oregon Project. The group is coached by Alberto Salazar and contains Cam Levins, who, last Friday, broke the Canadian 10,000m record. We reached out to Levins after the ProPublica piece was published, but got his voicemail.

No Nike Oregon Project athletes have ever failed a drug test, though the allegations are serious. In the stories, Galen Rupp, Mo Farah and Alberto Salazar all flatly deny any wrongdoing.

Related: An interview with Steve Magness

Most of the allegations come from former assistant coach Steve Magness, who left the group after the 2012 Olympics which saw Mo Farah and Galen Rupp finish first and second in the 10,000m. The ProPublic article, written by David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, says that Magness saw a document while working with the team which said Rupp had been given testosterone in 2002, when he was only 16.

Other allegations include that Salazar had his son Alex, who worked in the same cubicle as Magness, test testosterone cream, allegedly to see what type and size of doses would trigger a positive test. Magness also recalls a package arriving at hotel room in Germany containing a book, hollowed out, with two pills taped inside for Rupp. There were other allegations in the lengthy Epstein piece.

The Oregon Project has for awhile been accused of misusing therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) to get around drug rules. Some have claimed that the group has an oddly high number of the athletes who require TUEs for thyroid medication, banned under most circumstances.

Also, Epstein writes that he spoke with a massage therapist John Stiner who worked with the team at a training camp and was asked by Salazar, after the team had left, to mail him home a tube of Androgel, a testosterone medication, which had been left in one of their rooms. Salazar claimed the cream was for a heart condition he has, though testosterone is not known to be used as a heart medication. Some say it could even worsen many heart conditions. Testosterone, barring extreme medical conditions and TUEs, is almost never allowed in sport and is seen a a serious performance enhancer.

Recently Mary Cain, a teenager who, until recently, trained with the Oregon Project in Portland, Ore., made a splash when it was revealed by Ken Goe of The Oregonian she did not partake in a recent training camp in Park City, Utah, and had moved home. It is unclear if her departure, or any other former runner’s split with the Oregon Project, has had anything to do with these allegations of PED use. Former Nike athlete Kara Goucher is quoted criticizing Salazar in the Epstein piece.