Is famed long-distance runner and coach Alberto Salazar the sports world’s next icon to fall?
Former team members of Salazar, including a Duluth native, are alleging today that he was a cheat.
“He is sort of a win-at-all-costs person and it’s hurting the sport,” says Kara Goucher, who left Salazar’s Oregon Project in 2011 after seven years.
“If the sport’s to be saved,” Goucher says in a ProPublica/BBC investigation, “it can’t keep going on the way it is.”
Goucher won the bronze in the 10K at the 2007 world championships and has known about Salazar’s alleged drug doping and cheating techniques firsthand. She said she was afraid to say anything up to now, ProPublica says.
Five months after she gave birth to Colt in 2010, Salazar was unhappy about Goucher’s weight, she says. Salazar had previously recommended that several female runners he deemed overweight take over-the-counter supplements marketed as fat-burners. But for Goucher, he had something different in mind. “You need to just take some Cytomel,” she says he told her. Cytomel is the brand name for a form of synthetic thyroid hormone, prescribed when the thyroid is naturally underactive, which can lead to weight gain and fatigue. When Goucher asked how she would get it, she says Salazar told her, “Just ask Galen for some of his, he has a prescription for it.”
Goucher was already taking one synthetic thyroid hormone, Levoxyl, which she had been prescribed before coming to the Oregon Project for an underactive thyroid caused by Hashimoto’s disease. She called her endocrinologist and asked whether she should also take Cytomel. “He said absolutely not. You don’t need that, don’t take it,” Goucher says. Cytomel’s label specifically says that prescribed dosages of thyroid hormone drugs are not effective for weight loss, and that larger doses “may produce serious or even life-threatening manifestations of toxicity.”
“Maybe four or five days go by,” Goucher says, “and Alberto brought me [Cytomel] that I didn’t have a prescription for.” The pill bottle’s label had been ripped off and Salazar had hand-written Cytomel on it. Goucher says she didn’t take it, and Adam Goucher added that her endocrinologist later chastised Salazar, telling him to stop playing doctor. Neither Salazar nor Rupp responded to questions about Cytomel.
The Oregon Project was formed by Nike to help Americans compete with Ethiopians and Kenyans on the world’s long-distance running stage.
The allegations against Salazar come with risk to those making them. There is no more powerful person in U.S. track and last year two non-Oregon Project athletes were disqualified from the indoor national championships at Salazar’s insistence.
None of the Nike Oregon Project athletes has ever failed a drug test, the BBC points out. But it says at least seven athletes or staff associated with the Nike Oregon Project have gone to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with their concerns.
The USADA had no comment.
Goucher also declined an MPR interview.