The Nike Oregon Project, Nike’s elite track and field training program, is being shut down. The news came 10 days after Oregon Project head coach Alberto Salazar was given a four-year ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for doping conduct.

The ban stemmed from violations that included trafficking in testosterone, tampering with the doping control process and administering improper infusions of L-carnitine, a naturally occurring substance that converts fat into energy. Salazar has vowed to appeal the ban.

The winding down of the project was revealed in a memo late Thursday to employees from Nike Inc. CEO Mark Parker to company employees.

Parker’s full memo reads: “Team, As you know, last week I shared my thoughts on the recent USADA ruling regarding Alberto Salazar and The Oregon Project. I want to reiterate that Nike has always tried to put the athlete and their needs at the front of all our decisions. While the panel found there was no orchestrated doping, no finding that performance enhancing drugs have ever been used on Oregon Project athletes and went out of its way to note Alberto’s desire to follow all rules, unfortunately, Alberto can no longer coach while the appeal is pending. 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. We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them. And, as we have said, we will continue to support Alberto in his appeal as a four-year suspension for someone who acted in good faith is wrong. Thanks, Mark Parker Chairman, President and CEO, NIKE, Inc.”

On September 30, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that an arbitration panel decided on a four-year ban for Salazar and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone while working at the Nike Oregon Project.

Nike funds the Oregon Project on the company’s campus in Portland, OR, through a $460 million 26-year sponsorship deal with US Track and Field, the national governing body for the sport. Founded in 2001, the project has been designed to make American distance running competitive at the world stage.

As founder and head coach of the Nike Oregon Project, Salazar, 61, has trained stars such as Mo Farah of Britain, a four-time Olympic champion on the track; Galen Rupp, the top American marathon runner; and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands.

While Farah left the group in 2017, those still remaining, including the current 1500m and 10,000m world champion Hassan and 800m gold medallist Donovan Brazier, were subject to intense questioning after their wins in Doha last week. Farah, Rupp and another top Oregon Project athlete Jordan Hasay are preparing for the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

According to the New York Times, the doping allegations first surfaced 10 years ago when a Nike scientist alerted USADA to suspicious testosterone levels in blood tests of Oregon Project athletes. Three years later, Steve Magness, an Oregon Project scientist and coach, left and began speaking publicly about experiments with testosterone and L-carnitine infusions.

Two former Oregon Project athletes, Kara Goucher and Dathan Ritzenhein, later spoke out against the program. Other elite runners involved in the program have included Yomif Kejelcha and Matthew Centrowitz. To date, no Oregon Project athletes have tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.

Photo courtesy Nike