The Oregon Project is no more, a trail that was supposed to lead to Olympic glory now shuttled in shame.
The Nike-backed initiative, founded in 2001, was supposed to provide an intensive training scenario for American distance runners. Instead, the project was marred by controversy, especially founder and coach Alberto Salazar, who was recently banned for four years for multiple doping incidents. This led to Nike shutting down the project this week.
Three times the winner of the New York Marathon as well as a victory in the Boston Marathon, Salazar is a controversial figure in the USA Track and Field (USATF) community. While highly regarded for his work ethic and demanding style, concerns emerged that Salazar was pushing his athletes too hard including allegedly asking runners to take prescription drugs to increase their performance.
The coach received the doping ban on Sept. 30. Salazar has denied all these allegations at length.
The Oregon Project resulted in multiple gold medals for the United States and success on the international level but controversy followed Salazar’s involvement. Now with his doping ban, the project is over and Nike has pulled its backing.
Nike likely won’t be hurt too much from this news, which despite the impact on the international track scene, the Oregon Project didn’t really create much of a ripple in terms of marketing or exposure for the brand to mainstream audiences. Last month, Nike announced that its first-quarter earnings increased to $10.7 billion, representing a 7 percent increase.
In recent years the Oregon Project has also included international runners and not just American talent.