Where Are The Former Alberto Salazar-Coached NOP Athletes Headed? Clayton Murphy Returns to College Coach Lee Labadie

By Jonathan Gault
January 9, 2020

What happens when the world’s biggest sportswear manufacturer shuts down its most famous distance running training group? That is the question athletes of the Nike Oregon Project, which was shut down by Nike CEO Mark Parker in October, have faced for the last three months.

For some, the dissolution of NOP wasn’t a huge transition, save for the removal of the trademark winged skull from their racing kits. Shannon RowburyEric JenkinsSuguru OsakoCraig EngelsDonavan BrazierKonstanze Klosterhalfen, and Jessica Hull will all remain with former NOP assistant Pete Julian as part of a yet-to-be-named training group.

Murphy celebrates winning the NCAA indoor title in 2016

But the five members of the group coached by Alberto Salazar — whose four-year ban from the sport, handed down by USADA in September 2019, triggered the demise of NOP — faced a much tougher decision. Though Salazar is appealing his ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, he is not currently allowed to coach any athletes. Marathoner Jordan Hasay was the first to announce her future plans; in November Hasay said she will return to her hometown of Arroyo Grande, Calif., and take on former marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe as her “coaching advisor.” With the 2020 indoor track season just around the corner, LetsRun.com reached out to the agents for the other four Salazar athletes to learn their plans moving forward.

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Clayton Murphy is returning to his college coach at the University of Akron, Lee Labadie. Labadie guided Murphy to his personal best of 1:42.93 in the 800, which he ran to take bronze in the 800 meters at the 2016 Olympics. According to Murphy’s agent Paul Doyle, Labadie was involved as an advisor to Murphy during his time with NOP. Though Murphy still has a place in Portland with his wife, former Oregon sprinter and fellow 2016 Olympian Ariana (they were married in December), Doyle said Murphy will travel to Akron for extended training stints; he is there for one such stint right now.

Jos Hermens, agent for international stars Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, said that both athletes are still looking for coaches and that there has been some contact with coaches outside of Oregon, suggesting that they may not join Julian’s group.

Perhaps predictably, Galen Rupp‘s future remains the most mysterious. Salazar began coaching Rupp as a high schooler in Portland, and the two had been together for almost two decades when Salazar’s ban was announced. When asked for clarity on Rupp’s current coaching situation, his agent, Ricky Simms, did not provide any details.

“He has not yet made any public announcements about his coaching set up,” Simms wrote in an email to LetsRun.com.

UPDATE: On Friday, Runner’s World broke the news that Rupp is being coached by Northern Arizona University coach Mike Smith.

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