Tag: Nike Oregon Project

CONSIDERING CHICAGO 2017

People have been asking why I hadn’t written anything on the outcome of this year’s Chicago Marathon after the historic win by Galen Rupp in the men’s race, and the third place finish by Jordan Hasay for women, whose 2:20:57 represents the second-fastest marathon time ever by an American woman.  Well, it has taken me a while to write, because A) I wasn’t there to talk with the principals, and B) there are conflicting emotions at play.

On the surface, it’s a wonderful thing; two American runners achieved a truly impressive outcome against world-class competition in one of the major marathons of the world.  Both athletes are likable and humble with careers of excellence going back to their high school days now coming to full flower in their professional years.  Both have loving support systems and are coached by another all-time great American runner, Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project. Together, these results are worthy of grand celebrations, all things being equal. But, of course, all things are not equal, which is what leads to the conflicting emotions. (more…)

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TWIXT THE SPIRIT AND LETTER

As an athlete Alberto Salazar was willing to delve more deeply into the dark raging corridors within than any athlete I ever encountered.  That do-or-die spirit is what elevated Al to iconic status as a runner, but it also brought him to the edge of the abyss. Twice he ran himself to the precipice of a serious medical crisis, once at the Falmouth Road Race 1978 (hyperthermia), again at the 1982 Boston Marathon (hypothermia).

Now, with the release of a 269-page interim USADA report on the Nike Oregon Project and its coach by Russian hackers, we find Coach Salazar’s intense drive to succeed once again putting him on the edge between fair and foul, not only in the court of sport, but in the court of public opinion.   (more…)

SALAZAR FIRES BACK

New York City 1981
New York City 1981

At long last Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar has come out with his response to the allegations made by a joint BBC/Pro Publica investigation regarding performance enhancing drugs and the misuse of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) at the Nike Oregon Project. I urge you to read both David Epstein’s original investigative piece (linked above) and Alberto’s two-part rebuttal here and here.

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But what has always been a head-scratcher to me as I followed the story over the last three weeks (and after knowing Alberto for most of our adult lives) was how so many people knew about the Androgel, the testosterone cream that was one of the main contentions of the investigation and follow up stories.

According to a Letsrun.com headline linking to a Daily Mail story out of England: “The AndroGel was so prevalent”

But that’s my point. Seems Alberto was telling anyone and everyone about it, not hiding it or making it all secret.  He told massage therapist John Stiner to clean out the Park City, Utah apartment that the NOP team used as a high-altitude training camp, all the while knowing there were needles and vials and a tube of Androgel there? That is who you tell to clean up your drug pit, an independent contractor who is not in on the cabal? (more…)

TIME FOR A CHANGE?

six_million_dollar_manWhen is a man not a man?  Whoever thought that such a question might one day have currency?  We might have chuckled at the campy 1970s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors, or chomped through several over-priced buttered popcorn boxes watching Arnold as the Terminator, but with technology rapidly replacing worn parts —  or, in the case of Caitlyn Jenner (nee Bruce), unwanted parts — we are fast reaching the point where man and machine may soon be indistinguishable, and ethics will once again be sorely tested.

Rules and regulations are instituted with the goal of establishing an even playing field whereupon fair competition can be conducted. How else to determine a true champion? But it is only when we all agree upon and adhere to those rules and regulations that such a goal can be achieved.  The minute there are competing interpretations is when we come into existential conflict.

Periodically, as today, there is a school of thought which throws up its hands, and in frustration declares, “just give in and let performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) be allowed in sport.” After all, goes the argument, although there are health risks involved with PED use, by their nature sports are inherently risky, and PEDs would simply be another risk associated with participation. Plus, with medical supervision those risks would be largely eliminated.

And there is some logic behind that frustration and its corollary suggestion, as the best efforts of the testers have consistently lagged behind the users since PEDs came into wide spread use in the 1960s. But since there is not a clear boundary between “safe” and “unsafe” PED use, the line would only be shifted, not erased. So is it ever as simple as just turning the page? (more…)

FALLING APART AT THE SEEMS

Alberto Salazar
Alberto Salazar

Good news — Bad news on this National Running Day 2015.  The bad news comes from the BBC investigative show Panorama, which, in conjunction with Pro Publica raised disquieting questions about alleged drug use and unethical practices by Coach Alberto Salazar at the Nike Oregon Project.  I won’t retrace the allegations. You can read the complete story at the Pro Publica link above. *

Suffice it to say that performance-enhancing drugs have been the bane of sports for over sixty years. How many of the current track records do people really believe were achieved on the up-and-up? Today, it is damned if you do run fast, jump high, or throw far (see Justin Gatlin), and damned if you don’t (everybody else).

I’m no apologist for drug use, but with the political conflagration at FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and the corruption  everyone knows to be endemic in athletics, where does the concept of fair play even begin to come into consideration for the lowly athletes of this world? Kris Kristofferson wrote about such displacement with “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. (more…)

GEOFF HOLLISTER & CHICAGO MARATHON SOLD OUT

Geoff as we knew him best

The sport of running lost one its true guiding lights today as news of Geoff Hollister’s passing was announced in Portland, Oregon.  Hollister succumbed to cancer just days after his 66th birthday following a several year battle with the disease.  Full story here

Among his many other talents, Geoff was instrumental in bringing Alberto Salazar out to Oregon, and this past weekend at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Al’s home town of Boston, Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project athletes Galen Rupp, Mo Farah, and Ciaran O’Lionard all wore specially designed singlets in honor of Geoff.  Galen, who grew up in Eugene and attended the University of Oregon, like Geoff, was especially touched.

“He was so passionate about the sport,” recalled Galen last Friday, Geoff’s 66th birthday.  “He brought so many new ideas, like Athletics West (the Nike-sponsored track team of the late 1970s).  He really knew how to advance the sport.  I’ve known him since high school, and he was always so good to be around.”

I’d known Geoff for over 30 years, too, and we’d reconnect every August at Joanie Samuelson’s Beach to Beacon 10k in Maine, where his laugh and embrace of life were always in full engagement. Though he’d long retired from Nike, Geoff kept busy in recent years using his arts background to produce documentary films, from the award-winning “Fire on the Track”, the tale of Steve Prefontaine, to last year’s “There is No Finish Line” showcasing the saga of Joanie’s rise to Olympic glory, and her continued influence on runners of all ages, genders, and abilities.

One of the original “Men of Oregon”, as writer and fellow Duck Kenny Moore dubbed the men who ran for legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman, Geoff Hollister lived a life that exemplified Joseph Campbell’s dictate to “follow your bliss”.  May we all be so fortunate.  (more…)

RUPP’S DILEMMA

      Galen Rupp has been groomed for years by coach Alberto Salazar at the Nike-sponsored Oregon Distance Project in Portland.  Now at age 25 the American 10,000 meter champion is moving into his peak years, and still may have medal hopes for London 2012.  But more and more that possibility is looking less and less likely.  Either you’ve got the wheels or you don’t, and when we are talking distance running at the rarified atmosphere of the World Championship and Olympic medal level, Galen just doesn’t seem to possess the raw speed necessary to contend.

Today, in Daegu, South Korea, Rupp hung with the very best distance men in the world through 23 1/2 laps in the 10,000 meter final of the World Championships.  But when the racing for the medals began in earnest a lap and a half out, Galen was unable to respond, and had to settle for seventh place, 13-seconds behind the champion Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia.  His is now the conundrum for all distance men – hell, all runners. We all start out as sprinters, then move up to find our sweetest distance.

We have seen this for decades, the plight of the strength runner in a speed man’s game.  Remember that Alberto himself was at one time the American record holder at 5000 (13:11) and 10,000 meters (27:25).  But eight days before besting Dick Beardsley in their legendary “Duel in the Sun” at the 1982 Boston Marathon, Al was gunned down at a special 10,000 he’d arranged at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon by the great (but chubby at the time) Henry Rono of Kenya, 27:29 to 27:30.

Steve Jones of Wales was a formidable 10,000 meter runner in the early 1980s, too, but he didn’t have the nitrous tank to go to when pink slips and shiny medals were up for grabs.  So he, too, was lured to the marathon where that kind of speed was less necessary.  Next thing we knew, he, like Alberto before him, became the world’s best over the longer distance.

And most recently, in Oslo last year at the Bislett Games 21-year-old Bekana Daba of Ethiopia ran 12:58.51 for 5000 meters, good for ninth place.  For that he earned all of $500.  Since it cost him $700 to fly from Addis Ababa to Oslo, his 12:58 COST him $200!  But after seeing his friend Gebre Gebremariam win the ING New York City Marathon last November, Daba, then 22, put two and two together, and he ended up coming up with $39,000 payday by winning the Houston Marathon this January in a course record 2:07:04.

But with Galen Rupp taking home a healthy check from Nike every month, he has the luxury to maintain his focus on the track, regardless the results as he attempts to develop the closing speed that now eluded him. And one hopes, for his sake, that path will lead to glory.

Problem may well be that by the time he moves up in distance sometime after London 2012 the current trend of younger talent out of East Africa trickling into the marathon will have become a mass migration as they follow the only real money in the sport. Then what, join my friend Josh Cox at 50K?

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