On Monday, the U.S. Center for SafeSport updated its disciplinary database moving former Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar’s status from “temporarily ineligible” to “permanent ineligibility,” meaning he can no longer coach U.S.A. Track & Field athletes.
Salazar was temporarily suspended in February 2020 after Mary Cain, a former teen track star who trained under Salazar from 2013 to 2015, alleged in a New York Times op-ed that the coach weighed her in front of teammates and publicly shamed her for not hitting his predetermined numbers on the scale. As a result, Cain, now 25, said she suffered depression, suicidal thoughts, five stress fractures, and didn’t menstruate for three years.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport is an independent nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, created in 2017 and designated by the U.S. Congress to respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic sports. It is federally authorized under the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act and also has responsibility to develop policies to prevent emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of athletes of all ages participating in Olympic sports at all levels.
The center does not release details of the cases or decisions, but the decision comes after the organization’s own investigation into what appears to be more than emotional abuse allegations. Salazar’s charges are listed as “sexual misconduct; emotional misconduct” in the public database.
“The Center does not comment on matters to protect the integrity of the process,” a media relations representative from SafeSport said in an email to Women’s Running on Monday.
Salazar can appeal the decision within 10 days and if he does, the process goes into arbitration. Until then, the sanction is enforced and will remain unless it is appealed and an arbitrator reverses it.
In an email to Women’s Running, Nike said: “We have seen the posting on the SafeSport website and understand Alberto has the right to appeal. Alberto is no longer a contracted coach and we shuttered the Oregon project almost two years ago. Additionally, the SafeSport process is confidential by rule and we will not comment further.”
Cain’s allegations were corroborated by former members of the now-defunct Oregon Project and others came forward with similar experiences, including 2008 Olympian Amy Yoder Begley, who was a member of the group from 2007 until 2011, when she said Salazar dismissed her from the team because she appeared too heavy (scans of her lean muscle and body fat ration at that time showed she was fitter than ever, she said).
Salazar is also serving a four-year doping violations ban for trafficking testosterone and tampering with the doping control process—he denied the charges and has appealed the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. After Cain’s new allegations came to light in 2019, Salazar also denied those, though he told the Oregonian, “I may have made comments that were callous or insensitive over the course of years of helping my athletes through hard training.”
A message to Cain was not immediately returned.
On July 1, New York Road Runners announced that it has removed Salazar from the NYRR Hall of Fame. Salazar won the New York City marathon three times in the early 1980s.
“In examining members of the NYRR Hall of Fame, the organization takes into consideration inductees’ contributions, conduct and influence on the sport, as well as their ties to the organization’s mission and values,” NYRR officials said in a written statement. “As part of this process, it has been decided that Salazar does not meet the organization’s ethical standards. The serious, credible statements of Salazar’s conduct of abuse and harassment of athletes as well as the investigation and ban for doping violations, necessitated a removal.”