Nike is to shut down its elite Oregon Project (OP) long-distance running operation less than two weeks after head coach Alberto Salazar was banned for four years, a company spokesperson told CNN.
Salazar was banned for “multiple anti-doping rule violations” following a four-year investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Nike says it took the decision to wind down the OP as the situation has become an “unfair burden” on its athletes.
“Nike has always tried to put the athlete and their needs at the front of all of our decisions,” a spokesperson told CNN.
“While the panel found there was no orchestrated doping, no finding that performance-enhancing drugs have ever been used on Oregon Project athletes and went out of its way to note Alberto’s desire to follow all rules, ultimately Alberto can no longer coach while the appeal is pending.
“This situation including uninformed innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions has become an unfair burden for current OP athletes. That is exactly counter to the purpose of the team.
“We have therefore made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project to allow the athletes to focus on their training and competition needs. We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them.”
The Nike Oregon Project is a prolific training group that has produced some of the world’s best athletes, including Mo Farah, who Salazar coached to four Olympic gold medals between 2011 and 2017.
Salazar, 61, and Jeffrey Brown, a consultant doctor for the NOP, were ruled to have trafficked testosterone, tampered with the doping control process and administered a banned intravenous infusion.
Nike told CNN it “will continue to support Alberto in his appeal,” which has been taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.