Nike denies obstructing USADA probe of Salazar
Nike has denied hindering an investigation into alleged doping violations at a training group overseen by renowned US athletics coach Alberto Salazar, insisting that it has “voluntarily co-operated” with requests for information from the US Anti-Doping Agency.
It was reported on Saturday by the German news magazine Der Spiegel that Nike Oregon Project athletes Galen Rupp and Matthew Centrowitz (pictured) had provided “samples that arose suspicion in the doping investigators” before they competed for USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
It is claimed that a USADA employee reported that Rupp’s testosterone/epitesterone levels were elevated compared to his previous pattern in samples and that the agency also noted a haemoglobin value and reticulocyte count for Centrowitz that appeared to show a “suspicious profile.”
It is not known if further testing was carried out subsequently. Rupp went on to win a bronze medal in the marathon and Centrowitz won a gold medal in the 1,500 metres at the Rio Olympics.
USADA is reported to have requested from Salazar any documents that included the words “testosterone,” “Testoboost” or “Testo.” He did not give up the documents, saying they were on Nike’s server.
Der Spiegel alleges that Nike wanted to sign a “confidentiality agreement” with USADA before it would comply.
A lawyer for USADA is quoted as saying that such an agreement would give Nike unilateral control over the documents in the agency’s possession and prevent it from using them in any hearing. The lawyer added that the agreement also had “the potential capacity to interfere with, delay or impede USADA’s investigation in a myriad of ways."
The US sportswear giant has defended its action, saying in a statement: "To be clear, Nike has not tried to obstruct USADA’s investigations into the Oregon Project In fact, the opposite is true. Nike has voluntarily cooperated with information requests from USADA, including turning over thousands of pages of documents to USADA, an effort that imposed a substantial cost and effort to Nike.
“Nike did so even though USADA has no legal right to request or access the documents and has never informed Nike of the precise nature of its investigation. Nike undertook this effort because it strongly believes in clean sport and does not tolerate the use of performance enhancing drugs. We welcome and respect the genuine efforts that are made to ensure that sport remains clean.
"In its effort to fully cooperate with USADA and be responsive to its requests, Nike requested that USADA agree to some basic protections in the form of a confidentiality agreement. This kind of agreement is very common in situations like this in the United States, and is standard practice even where there is a legal obligation to turn over documents (which in this case there was not). Indeed, the primary purpose of the agreement was to prevent USADA from turning over these documents to third parties.
“Nike requested confidentiality because USADA’s requests were so broad and expansive that responding to them would include producing documents that contained sensitive, irrelevant and sometimes very personal information about Oregon Project Athletes and others unrelated to USADA’s purported investigation. The confidentiality clause was simply to protect the personal information contained in those documents from disclosure to third parties, not obstruct the investigation.”
Nike added that when USADA “unreasonably refused to agree on the language of a confidentiality agreement,” it nonetheless “voluntarily turned over thousands of pages of documents,” and that there were no follow-up requests for documentation.
The conduct of Salazar, who has continued to deny any wrongdoing, is back under the microscope after a leaked report from USADA seen by the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper claimed he had given his athletes prescription drugs with potentially harmful side-effects without a justifiable reason and used a banned method of infusing a legal supplement called L-carnitine.
The report was passed to the Sunday Times by Russian hacking group Fancy Bears.
Allegations of doping were previously made against Salazar by the BBC, the UK’s public-service broadcaster, in 2015.
The latest claims have prompted reports that USADA could have enough evidence to retest the samples of athletes at the Nike Oregon Project.
Overseas athletes in Salazar’s stable include Great Britain’s Mo Farah, who won the double of 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, but UK Athletics is satisfied with the pair continuing to work together and retains the coach as a consultant.
Farah said over the weekend that he is happy to be tested for drugs “anytime, anywhere” and for any of his old samples to be reanalysed if necessary.