Steve Magness Issues Passionate Rebuttal To Alberto Salazar’s Open Letter: “(Salazar’s) statements actually confirm what I witnessed and what I told to the BBC/ProPublica reporters in their documentary last month”

June 25, 2015

A large part of the Alberto Salazar‘s response yesterday to the doping allegations yesterday consisted of a character and coaching assasination of former Nike Oregon Project assistant coach Steve Magness.

Magness issued the following statement to a few media outlets this afternoon in response.

Yesterday Alberto Salazar broke 3 weeks of silence to respond to the BBC/ProPublica investigation of doping at the Nike Oregon Project. Although Salazar promised he would show that the allegations against him are “false,” his statements actually confirm what I witnessed and what I told to the BBC/ProPublica reporters in their documentary last month. I reported that Salazar used a hollowed out book to send medication through the mail. Not only does he admit doing so, he apparently used this tactic of making false customs declarations to send controlled substances internationally more than once. I also provided documentation showing one of his runners was on “testosterone medication” – something Salazar dismisses as a typo for legal supplements, even though it was recorded by a world renowned physiologist who surely knew the difference between a banned substance and a supplement he originally told the BBC was “testoboost” but now cannot remember clearly. Furthermore Salazar tries to portray it as my responsibility to raise the question with Mhyre, a man I never met and whom Salazar had worked with for over a decade. Salazar also confirms that he conducted tests on his own son to see exactly how much testosterone gel would trigger a positive drug test result; exactly as I described. He offered excuses for each of these actions including many of the far-fetched rationalizations he originally told as well as a few new ones. But he does not dispute the fact that they happened – a very strange way of proving them “false.”

Unfortunately Salazar has also adopted the tactic of character assassination against myself, against Kara and Adam Goucher, and against the growing number of athletes and coaches who have shared what we witnessed at the Oregon Project under his direction. Having debated in my mind for the past two years over the ramifications for coming forward against such a powerful figure, I knew that this was almost a certainty. While my focus is on helping the athletes I have competing at the US championships, I’d like to briefly correct the record in regards to several of Salazar’s claims and his attack on my character and statements with further clarifications coming from interviews conducted with reputable journalist.

Salazar tried to defame my coaching record at NOP. He claimed that he had no confidence in my ability as a coach and that I did not relate well with his runners, causing me to be “let go.” In reality, I left the Oregon Project under a mutual agreement to terminate my contract, dated June 27, 2012 so that I could pursue other coaching opportunities. Our decision to part ways came after many months of misgivings, disagreements, and growing ethical concerns about Salazar’s activities. I had actually considered leaving NOP as early as 2011 and discussed doing so with my family and close friends at the time. They talked me into sticking it out at Nike until the Olympics. The reasoning at the time was it was my first big time job coaching and I naively felt that it could hurt my career if I departed so soon. I now wish I had followed my gut instinct.

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Salazar’s latest claims about the reasons for our differences are also at odds with his own statements at the time. On May 7, 2012 – weeks before I left the NOP – he copied me on an email to the team Strength Coach and Physical Therapist, announcing he’d be taking a 10 day absence from the main group. Salazar wrote at the time: “Steve knows the guys good enough that inhale complete confidence he’ll take care of all of them. –Alberto” (sic). Typos aside, it seems strange that he would hand over his star athletes for 10 days leading up to the Olympic Trials and say that he has “complete confidence” in my ability to look after them one on one if he felt what he now claims about my abilities as a coach. That doesn’t fit the narrative Salazar is currently attempting to weave.

Continuing his strategy of personal attacks in lieu of responding to the evidence, Salazar also tried to take selective shots at my current coaching at Houston. He strategically mentioned we had not qualified a distance runner for indoor or outdoor nationals, leaving out the individual we qualified for cross country nationals, and for the world junior championships in the 5k. This selectivity speaks volumes to me about his intentions and character. My coaching record at the high school, collegiate, and professional level can be thoroughly vetted by anyone with any semblance of knowledge of athletics.

When I started at the Oregon Project in 2011 I thought that I had landed my “dream job,” and for a while I tried to put the blinders on and convince myself that it was. But as I mentioned in the BBC/Pro-publica articles, the next year and a half was an ever-growing disillusionment with my job that would lead to my current feelings on the Project. I also grew fearful of what would happen if I said anything other than glowing praise in the public. Shortly before I left Nike, Salazar made it abundantly clear to me that he would use his stature in the sport to affect my career prospects. In an email on May 28, 2012 he told me: “We really want to give you a positive recommendation to wherever you apply for collegiate positions but you are going to make it very hard for Cap, Ben and I to do so when a Nike school Athletic Director calls us to ask about you if you go this route.  Think this over very carefully.   – Alberto”

Since leaving Nike, this fear has been realized and demonstrated on many occasions. The first time it happened I was not so subtly pressured over an article I wrote about Lance Armstrong for Competitor, even though it didn’t even mention a single NOP athlete. The disclaimer I was pressured to write is still present on that article. After that came a confrontation at the 2013 London athletics meeting, with Salazar cornering me in the athlete warm-up area and asking whom I’d been talking to and if I saw anything while at Nike. It’s humbling to say, but during my time at NOP, I didn’t have the guts to go against the company line in public.

I’m tired of living in fear of threats, having to avoid questions, and always having this lingering cloud of what I witnessed over my head. So I decided to speak about my experiences and gave accurate details of what I encountered to a trustworthy and reputable news organization.  The point in all of this, we all can dig through emails and construct a narrative that fits our agenda, but it’s about asking why we delve into the realms of sport that are potentially against the rules and the spirit of the sport.  I can only report what I saw and experienced. The same can be said with numerous other individuals who have come forward. I thank the others who have showed incredible courage and determination in taking a stance for clean sport. While it is incredibly intimidating and no doubt will result in your reputation being attacked, at least you can walk away with a clean conscience.

Expanding on Magness defense of his coaching abilities, it should be pointed out that the University of Houston is far from a traditional powerhouse. Prior to Magness arrival, the last American NCAA cross country qualifier was  Sesar Figueroa in 2005 (Kenyan transfer Wesley Ruttoh made it in 2011). Prior to Magness arrival, the last time a University of Houston distance or mid distance athlete made any US senior or junior world team was 1972. Brian Barraza ran at World Juniors last year for Team USA.

Additionally, we at asked Magness for the full copy of the email that Magness quoted from above where Salazar expressed “complete confidence” in Magness ability to coach the Nike Oregon Project team alone for 10 days just weeks for the 2012 Olympic Trials. It appears below.

Discuss this article in our world famous fan forum: MB: Steve Magness Issues Passionate Rebuttal To Alberto Salazar’s Open Letter.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Salazar, Alberto (ETW) <****>
Date: Mon, May 7, 2012 at 1:22 AM
Subject: Re: Park City
To: David McHenry <***>, Steve Magness <****>, “Treasure, Darren (ETW)” <***>
Cc: “Salazar, Alex (ETW)” <***>

David, I probably won’t Eden be there for another ten days or longer. I’m going to stay with Matthew in Portland and keep him motivated. Steve knows the guys good enough that inhale complete confidence he’ll take care of all of them. -Alberto

Sent from my iPad
On May 6, 2012, at 10:33 PM, “David McHenry” <****> wrote:

I’ve been looking at tickets for this upcoming weekend.  Looks like I could be in Park City by 9:00am on Friday and would be able to fly out at about 7:30pm on Sunday.  That would give me full days on Friday andSaturday to work with the team, and then just about the entire day on Sunday as well.


Alex, If my girlfriend came out on this trip would we have a room?  We wouldn’t need our own condo, but want to make sure we wouldn’t be cramming on to a couch somewhere, or sleeping at the foot of Steve’s bed.




David V. McHenry PT, DPT

Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist

Certified Orthopaedic Manual Therapist


Portland Athletic Center of Excellence

4829 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Portland, Oregon 97211

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