WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (AFP/APP): The Nike Oregon Project was set up to end the distance-running dominance of the east Africans but has become a huge headache for the US sportswear giant, which said Friday it was shutting it down.
Alberto Salazar, the coach who founded the prestigious Portland-based training group in 2001, pushed himself to the brink as an athlete, and preached the same philosophy as a coach. But the 61-year-old Cuban-born American’s will to win went too far, according to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which last week banned him for four years for multiple doping violations.
Salazar has been a major figure in American athletics for decades, having won the 1980, 1981 and 1982 New York Marathons and the 1982 Boston Marathon. He is a long-time friend of Nike founder Phil Knight and persuaded him that if the company financed his dream project, he could end the stranglehold of Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes on distances from 800 meters to 10,000m and the marathon.
Salazar’s career is intertwined with Nike’s rise to become the world’s pre-eminent sportswear manufacturer — he even has a tattoo of the company’s swoosh logo.
Even as Nike CEO Mark Parker announced he was closing the Oregon Project on Friday, he said in a memo to staff that Nike would still support Salazar in his appeal because the ban “for someone who acted in good faith is wrong”.