If an important issue needs attention, it’s probable that Kara Goucher will lend her support. With one of the largest fan bases in the sport, she’ll reach a vast audience, too.
“I’m in a fortunate place in my life where I don’t really have to be in anybody’s good graces anymore, and that’s an empowering place to be,” she says. “I’ve made lots of mistakes and I’ll continue to make mistakes, but with everything I speak out about, I’m trying to make myself a better person in the sport, a better friend, a better mom, and a better person in my community.”
The year ahead could be another grueling one for Goucher, who was one of the primary whistleblowers in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against her former Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar. He was handed a four- year ban in October 2019 for doping violations; with the support of sponsor Nike, he’s appealing the decision, which will likely be decided this year. Goucher will give testimony.
Salazar is also under an ongoing SafeSport investigation, brought on following allegations of abuse and mistreatment by former athletes including Goucher, Mary Cain, and Amy Begley.
“I think that we still need a lot education on the way some coaches talk to athletes and treat athletes,” Goucher says. “We still have plenty of problems—this is still a big issue.”
For Goucher, 42, clean and safe sport issues no longer directly affect her career, but her concern for up-and-coming athletes who may find themselves in similar situations compels her to keep pressing uncomfortable topics, whether she does it on her social media channels, by privately aiding investigations, or as one of the hosts of the podcast “Clean Sport Collective.”
“It’s not a revenge or vengeance thing for me. It’s standing up for what’s right for the sport,” says Goucher, a world championships silver medalist in the 10,000 meters. “I don’t have any wish to return to elite competition. It’s not for myself anymore. We need to protect new generations of athletes.”
This profile was first published in the Winter 2021 print issue of Women’s Running as part of “Women Who Lead: Power Women of 2021” which celebrates 25 women who are reshaping the running industry for the better. You can see the full list of honorees here.