Runner Kara Goucher Reveals the Dark Underbelly of Team Nike
Having just completed her final workout, on the eve of her 1,500-meter race at the Rietal Grand Prix in Italy, sprinter Kara Goucher lies face down on her Kara Goucher, the runner of the Nike Elite Oregon Project, has revealed the dark underbelly of the team's secretive training facility and the abusive and coercive behavior employed by the project’s head coach, Alberto Salazar. Goucher was born in Queens in 1978 and became a three-time All-American in the process after moving to Duluth, Minnesota, and running her first one-mile run at age 6 and winning her high-school cross-country championship. She was invited to join the Oregon Project in Portland, Oregon, along with her husband and fellow runner Adam Goucher. The project was meant to be his passport to sports superstardom, but under the tutelage of head coach Salazar, it became anything but. When Goucher became pregnant in 2010, Nike arranged a promotional photoshoot with her and she was surprised to find that her pregnant belly had been photoshopped and replaced with non-pregnant abs.
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Having just completed her final workout, on the eve of her 1,500-meter race at the Rietal Grand Prix in Italy, sprinter Kara Goucher lies face down on her hotel bed as her coach Alberto Salazar massages her legs.
As he worked on his calves and hamstrings, Goucher worked out race strategy in his head, seeing how the next day’s race might play out.
Suddenly, Salazar’s hand shot up Gocher’s thigh higher than normal, beyond his shorts.
“Then, without any word, warning or explanation, his finger went into my vagina. Many times,” Goucher says.
In “The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on the Nike Elite Running Team,” out now and co-written with Mary Pilon, Goucher reveals the dark underbelly of Nike’s secretive Oregon Project running team – and the abusive and coercive behavior employed by the project’s head coach, Alberto Salazar.
Born in Queens in 1978, Goucher is the daughter of Mirko Gragas, a Croatian immigrant and talented soccer player who won a scholarship to play at the University of Ottawa, becoming a three-time All-American in the process.
Although Goucher was killed by a drunk driver on Harlem River Drive when his daughter was just 3 years old, Goucher inherited her father’s sporting ability.
After moving to Duluth, Minnesota, she ran her first one-mile run at age 6 and won her high-school cross-country championship.
Later, as a student at the University of Colorado, she became the NCAA champion in the 3000m, 5000m and cross country.
No one noticed his talent.
Following her 2001 graduation, Goucher was invited to join Nike’s Elite Oregon Project in Portland, Oregon, along with her husband and fellow runner Adam Goucher.
It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
The Nike campus in Beaverton has state-of-the-art training facilities that can take an athlete to the top.
Goucher writes, “Everything we needed to win was at our fingertips—equipment, massage, medical care, coaching—and if it wasn’t there, we could ask for it.”
“It felt like we had won the lottery.”
Joining the Oregon Project was meant to be his passport to sports superstardom, but under the tutelage of head coach Salazar, it became anything but.
A two-time Olympian and three-time New York Marathon winner, Salazar had a reputation for using unorthodox training methods that pushed the boundaries of what was legal in the world of athletics.
But, initially, at least, it seemed to be paying dividends for Goucher.
She won a silver medal in the 10,000 m at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan; Finished third in both the New York and Boston Marathons and made the US team for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Things were also derailing. When Goucher became pregnant in 2010, Nike arranged a promotional photoshoot with her.
“For a mainstream company, especially a sports brand, to put a pregnant athlete front and center was revolutionary,” she writes. “I felt like we were tapping into a community that had been neglected by the sports world for a long time.”
It didn’t turn out that way at all.
“When the image was published, I was surprised to find that my pregnant belly had been photoshopped and replaced with non-pregnant abs, while my breasts, which had grown significantly during pregnancy, were left as is. He continues…
“The combination gives the impression of a fake body – because it is one.”
she says things went downhill from there
When her $81,250 Nike quarterly paycheck didn’t arrive in her account in July of that year, she found that her pay had been suspended because of “my ‘absence’ from the competition and my ‘medical condition’. Meaning, pregnancy,” Goucher writes.
But the relationship with Nike was the least of his problems.
In the Oregon Project, Salazar’s unusual methods were under suspicion, especially when athletes like Mo Farah were suddenly performing better than ever.
For example, during the 2011 Prefontaine Classic 10,000 m race at the Oregon Track Club, Goucher watched in disbelief as the British runner won, breaking British and European records.
Stepping away from the bleachers, she called her husband and said she couldn’t believe the results Farrah was getting.
“Do you think they’re cheating?” He asked.
Suddenly, all of Salazar’s suspicions about the sightings began to make sense—the mysterious vials he’d seen in the team refrigerator, a shadowy man named “Dr. Brown” running, unmarked prescription bottles, and even showing that Goucher and other teammates were never invited to the secret meetings between Salazar and Farah.
“Finally, in that moment, I felt that my trust in him had been shattered,” she writes of Salazar.
Goucher also recalls how, in 2006, Salazar tried to raise her husband’s testosterone levels, giving him supplements such as “Alpha Male” and “TestoBoost”, all of which were banned by the US Anti-Doping Administration. agency (USADA) – even though they weren’t.
Salazar also, Goucher writes, told Adam in an email that “a recent study sponsored by Victoria’s Secret proved that buying her clothes raised her husband’s testosterone levels by 50%.”
She claims that throughout this time, Salazar’s predatory behavior towards Gocher continued.
On a flight to Portugal for the Lisbon Half-Marathon, the coach reportedly drunkenly questioned Goucher about his sex life and told him in depth about his wife.
“Eventually, he fell asleep,” Goucher writes. “When we landed in Lisbon, he got up and got off the plane as if nothing had happened.”
On the same trip, there was another alleged sexual assault during a massage.
Goucher writes, “After the Rita incident I told myself it was some kind of accident.” “Here it was happening again. And here I was again trying desperately to believe that this was another mistake.”
In 2011, meanwhile, Goucher competed in the 10,000 m at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, despite having a stress fracture in her upper leg.
After the “pregnancy talk”, she was threatened with a 25% reduction in her salary at Nike if she missed the competition.
Being away from his family and coping with an injury was tough – he completed the gap of 13th — but being alone with Salazar, she writes, was even worse.
On the flight across the Pacific, Goucher alleges that Salazar again had red wine and talked explicitly about sex – telling her about having sex in a hot tub with another female runner.
Then the matter escalated. Goucher writes that Salazar, “wine crusty in the corner of his mouth,” played a trick on her.
“That’s what we both wanted,” Alberto said, proposing directly to me for the first time. He said we should kiss and that ‘no one would know,'” Goucher recalls.
Before I could answer, he extended his head towards me. I immediately backed away. ‘You’re drunk,’ I told him. I needed to get away and I didn’t want to wait to see what he would say.
Goucher says she locked herself in the bathroom and waited for her coach to fall asleep.
“I left my baby and husband to be on this plane, to compete while injured, to try to stay in Nike’s good graces.
“How did I get here? I asked myself. And how do I get out?”
When she told her husband, both started crying bitterly.
“Adam was upset, though not at me,” she writes. “He said he felt like he had failed as a husband because he didn’t protect me.”
Goucher left the Oregon Project in 2011, returned to his old college coach Mark Wetmore, and served notice on his Nike contract.
His last official race as a Nike athlete was the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving Run in West Lynn, Portland.
“Twelve and a half years as a Nike runner, more than a third of my lifetime, and it was over once and for all,” she writes. “I opened my closet and pounced on it, pulling out every single piece of clothing.
“I thought about throwing the whole pile in the trash or lighting some kind of bonfire in the backyard. But I could not fathom wasting so much clothing. I loaded it into my car and donated it.
Freed from the Oregon Project, both Kara and Adam Goucher will be instrumental in bringing Salazar to justice – providing evidence of his misdeeds to both USADA and the US Center for SafeSport.
In 2019, Salazar was suspended from track and field for four years by USADA for offenses including testosterone trafficking.
Meanwhile, in July 2021, the US Center for SafeSport banned Salazar from track and field for life for sexual and emotional abuse, as other victims came forward.
In October 2021, former Oregon Project runner Mary Cain filed a $20 million lawsuit against Salazar and Nike, citing the coach’s obsession with her weight during her time there, public humiliation with her weight, and resulting depression and self-harm. Exploitation was cited. He developed harmful behavior.
Goucher writes, “She also alleged that Naik knew but failed to intervene.”
Salazar has denied all claims of doping and abuse.
Today, Goucher, 44, lives in Boulder, Colorado, with Adam and his son, Colt, and co-hosts the “Clean Sport Collective” podcast, an anti-doping initiative.
“Alberto is out of the game, but I’m still here, running. Through training, racing, putting one foot in front of the other, I’ve discovered what a strong person I really am,” writes Goucher. Are.
,[Running] Made me who I am. It has made me happy. I’m still in love with it. I will always be