The Running World Reacts to Alberto Salazar’s 4-Year Ban; Nick Willis Calls It “Justice”

October 1, 2019

On Monday, the US Anti-Doping Agency announced that it was handing four-year bans to Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar and paid Nike consultant Dr. Jeffrey Brown.

It did not take long for the track world to begin weighing in on one of the biggest stories to hit the running world in years.

A common sentiment shared by pro athletes and coaches on Twitter: it’s about time. There have been doubts about Salazar for years, particularly since the BBC/ProPublica story broke in 2015, but given that USADA’s investigation had been going for years without a resolution, many weren’t sure a conclusion would ever be reached. Now that Salazar has officially been banned by USADA (though he says he will appeal), athletes and coaches now feel free to share publicly the beliefs they’ve held privately for years. 

Many also praised whistleblowers such as Kara Goucher, Steve Magness, and others who stood up and shared their concerns about Salazar with journalists and anti-doping authorities. Here’s a selection of the reactions to the Salazar news.

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Meanwhile Craig Engels, who is part of the Nike Oregon Project but primarily coached by assistant Pete Julian, posted from Doha (where he will run the 1500 meters later this week) praising Julian for his success as a coach.

“From the 800 to the Marathon, Pete is an incredible coach and an inspirational human,” Engels wrote. “I couldn’t be more thankful I joined the Oregon Project and can’t wait to see what the team has in store for the future.”

We also spoke to two of the American distance runners competing at the World Championships in Doha on Tuesday, steeplers Stanley Kebenei and Andy Bayer — both of whom are sponsored by Nike (though neither has ever been coached or linked to Salazar). Their comments are below (Hillary Bor, the third US steepler in Doha, chose not to comment when asked about Salazar). 

Stanley Kebenei: “We shouldn’t be having coaches like those in track & field”

“If what they find out is true, then it’s good for our sport. We shouldn’t be having coaches like those in track & field. I think that USADA and WADA, they have taken a good initiative to make sure we’re having a clean sport, so that when we come here, we compete equally. Instead of seeing people taking five medals and five years later, you see that this [some athletes were using] something and the number 4-5-6 guys are losing. We’re all for clean sport, that’s what I can say.”

Andy Bayer: “We need to get drug cheats out of the sport. So I’m glad it came to the surface.”

“I’m not that surprised, to be honest. I am a clean athlete and I do train my ass off, so it pisses me off that people cheat in the sport, to be completely honest. And I was in a group (the Bowerman Track Club) that definitely had suspicions before [about Salazar]. But it’s hard to say anything until something comes out. And I don’t believe every athlete in that group is dirty, for sure. But we need to get drug cheats out of the sport. So I’m glad it came to the surface.

“…We need to keep putting money and keep putting in time and don’t let people off easy. That’s the real thing, is we don’t need to protect people that are cheating. We need to not protect people that are cheating.

“…I think it’s a bad day for the sport, honestly. I wish everyone was clean and there was an even playing field. But I guess if it means there’s gonna be more clean athletes going forward, then it’s a good thing.”

*Discuss the athlete reaction here

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