ALBERTO SALAZAR’S OPEN LETTER
Recently, the BBC/ProPublica published stories not just attacking me but attacking my athletes and the Oregon Project. Former athletes, contractors and journalists make accusations in these stories, harming my athletes. At best they are misinformed. At worst, they are lying.
I believe in a clean sport and hard work and so do my athletes. What follows below are the actual facts.
THE OREGON PROJECT
The goal of the Oregon Project is to give our athletes the support they need and deserve as world-class athletes; the support and training infrastructure that runners of my era did not have. We provide them access to the best facilities, coaches, trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists, and medical professionals. We proudly embrace science and technology to give our runners every legal means for success and, more importantly, to protect their health and prepare in the most meticulous manner possible for competition.
I will never permit doping. Oregon Project athletes must fully comply with the WADA Code and IAAF Rules. At no time do we use science in violation of the WADA Code. We strictly adhere to competition and anti-doping rules at all times. I have not and will not condone any athlete I train using a banned substance and would never encourage any athlete to use a banned substance. We have worked very, very hard to achieve our successes and are proud of our accomplishments.
My drive and determination as an athlete is well known. I pushed myself as far as my body could go. In fact, I trained and ran so hard it nearly killed me and I still suffer today the negative physical effects of my excessive training. I have that same drive and determination as a coach, combined with much more wisdom. I push my athletes to be the best but will not hurt my athletes like I hurt myself.
Galen is one of the hardest working, most honest and genuine athletes I have ever known. Galen has never taken a banned substance in violation of the WADA Code.
It is wholly unjust that Galen is expected to dispel unfounded allegations, made without proof or evidence, and I would ask that the media consider this important fact. In light of these extremely damaging and false allegations Galen has been left little choice but to share his medical and TUE history to dispel these baseless accusations.
Galen has suffered severe allergies and breathing issues almost his entire life. He also suffers from Hashimotos disease, a thyroid disease. He has a significant history of hypothyroidism on both sides of his family. Allegations that Galen takes asthma and thyroid medicine for competitive purposes are inaccurate and hurtful.
Galen takes asthma medication so he can breathe normally – not so he can run better.
His thyroid condition has been diagnosed and treated by two different endocrinologist specialists. Kara Goucher, one of the primary accusers in the BBC/ProPublica stories, suffers from the same thyroid disease, and, in fact, it was Kara that introduced Galen to the first endocrinologist who treated him. Galen takes his thyroid medication so that his body can function normally – not for any competitive advantage.
For more than 14 years, Dr. Mark T. O’Hollaren and Dr. Barzin Khalili have been treating Galen for his severe allergies and asthma. In 2001, Galen’s pediatrician referred him to Dr. O’Hollaren, one of the leading asthma and allergy medical specialists in the country. Dr. O’Hollaren and Dr. Khalili operate the Allergy Clinic in Portland, which has some of the highest allergen levels in the country. Galen takes a number of prescription medicines to treat his asthma and has received immunotherapy to treat his allergies since 2004.
Galen has fully disclosed his asthma and allergy treatment to USADA. In 2013, Galen provided USADA with over 500 pages of medical records and documents regarding his asthma treatment and the medications he had taken. These records, which date back to May 2001, include Galen’s medication records and show each time he has been prescribed prednisone to treat his asthma flare ups. USADA reviewed these documents and concurred that Galen’s treatment and use of prescribed medicines were consistent the WADA Code and the manufacturer’s recommended therapeutic regimen.
The claims that Galen has been on prednisone continuously since he was 15 are absolutely false. The BBC and ProPublica “reporters” were informed that these allegations were completely false, and they should not have printed them. Printing false statements to harm Galen is irresponsible journalism that damaged an innocent athlete’s reputation.
The article reports that Galen has received TUEs by manipulating the TUE system and that Galen has received numerous TUEs for multiple different treatments are also false. Since 2010 Galen has received 2 TUEs – both for the short term use of prednisone to treat his asthma. He received one TUE in July 2011 at the US Nationals and he received one TUE in February 2012. Galen has not had any TUEs since February 2012. That is 0 in 2013, 0 in 2014 and 0 in 2015. Also, Galen never utilized a TUE for an IV treatment. Kara Goucher’s claim that I have coached Galen to receive TUEs is completely false.
The allegations that Galen has received TUEs for prednisone in order to receive a competitive advantage are also untrue. At the 2011 USATF National Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Galen was scheduled to race in the 5,000m and 10,000m events and the pollen count was extremely high. As a precaution, Galen applied for a TUE for prednisone in case his allergies triggered an asthma attack, which had happened to him in previous events when the pollen counts were elevated. Galen had not received word from the USADA about his TUE on the day that he had to run his first event, so he ran the race wearing a mask to cover his mouth and nose to limit his pollen intake. The mask restricted his breathing so he removed it part way during the race. That night, he was notified that USADA had granted his TUE for prednisone. The pollen count dropped that night as well. As a result, Galen decided to not take the prednisone before his race the next day. He ran without incident and qualified for the IAAF World Championships in both events. See http://www.oregonlive.com/trackandfield/index.ssf/2011/06/what_in_the_world_is_galen_rup.html
Galen has never taken prednisone for a competitive advantage. Here, he had a TUE that allowed him to take prednisone, and he didn’t use it. Despite Galen’s clean record and honest approach, he is being asked to dispel false allegations, made without proof or evidence.
THYROID AND ASTHMA MEDICINE IN THE OREGON PROJECT
Early in the ProPublica story, the writer takes a completely unattributed broad-swipe at the Oregon Project claiming that: “Some runners say they joked that being fast was only one prerequisite for joining the team – you also had to have prescriptions for thyroid hormone and asthma medication.” There is nothing funny about that claim. It demeans the athletes in the Oregon Project including Kara Goucher and should never have been printed.
So the record is clear, I have coached 55 professional athletes in my career. Of those 55 athletes only 5 have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism after I had started coaching them and only 8 have been diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. That is 9.1% and 14.5% respectively. The incident rate for athletes in the Oregon Project being diagnosed with exercise induced asthma is actually significantly lower than the incident rate amongst U.S. Olympic middle and long distance runners generally. A U.S. Olympic Committee study found that 21% of female and male mid-distance, long-distance, and marathon athletes on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team and 23% of female and male mid-distance, long-distance, and marathon athletes on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team had exercise induced asthma. Asthma is not just a U.S. issue either. It has been reported that 21% of all athletes on Team Great Britain for the 2004 Athens Games had asthma. Also a 2012 British Journal of Sports Medicine noted, asthma is the most common chronic medical condition experienced by Olympic athletes and in Summer and Winter athletes, there is a marked preponderance of asthma in endurance-trained athletes. As asthma is so common in Olympic athletes and because asthma medication has been proven not to be performance enhancing, WADA eliminated the requirement for TUEs for asthma medication in 2010.
These numbers show that I do not push my athletes to take prescription medicine that is not needed as alleged in the BBC/ProPublica stories. Again, the BBC/ProPublica writers did not want the facts to get in the way of their stories.
The claims that I manipulate the test for Exercise Induced Asthma are also false. The standard protocol is involved. For example, see http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/exercise-induced-asthma/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20033156
TUEs AND THE OREGON PROJECT
In the BBC/ProPublica stories and in additional stories I have seen since, a number of people have alleged that I attempt to manipulate the TUE process for Oregon Project athletes. That is completely false. Kara Goucher’s claim that someone can make a couple of statements to a doctor and get a TUE is absurd and demeaning to the TUE processes of USADA and the IAAF.
The USADA and IAAF TUE process is very rigorous process. Medical doctors must submit substantial medical records to support an athlete’s request for a TUE. The medical professionals at the IAAF and/or USADA then closely scrutinize those documents. It is serious process and review. It is not a rubber stamp that can be easily manipulated.
Moreover, TUEs are a rare occurrence in the Oregon Project. We currently have 9 athletes in the Oregon Project. Since 2011, those athletes have had a grand total of 4 TUEs all of which were for a one-time use of a 3-5 day duration. Six Oregon Project athletes have not had a single TUE during that time period. One athlete received a TUE for prednisone while still in college. Another received a TUE for pain medication that was provided as part of treatment received in a hospital emergency room. And, as I noted above, Galen has had two TUEs for prednisone. One in 2011 which he did not use and another in February 2012. He has not had any since.
From these numbers it is clear that the Oregon Project is not manipulating the TUE process in any way.
THE STEVE MAGNESS ALLEGATIONS
Magness is a primary source of the allegations in the BBC and ProPublica stories. It must be noted that while Magness makes a number of inflammatory and false statements about the Oregon Project and me personally, at no point does he allege that any doping violations occurred while he was with the Oregon Project. That’s because none did. Magness misstated what occurred in an attempt to make it appear that inappropriate actions may have taken place when he has absolutely no basis for what he says. He then opines on matters that occurred years before he was ever associated with the Oregon Project – some while he was still in high school.
To get a sense of whether Magness was being truthful in his latest statements to the press, , those statements to the BBC and ProPublica should be compared to what he said before he was terminated from “his dream job.” Read Amby Burfoot’s, “A Brief Chat with Steve Magness” in the July 31, 2011 issue of Runner’s World. http://www.runnersworld.com/elite-runners/brief-chat-steve-magness
In that article – which was written months after incidents alleged by Magness in the BBC and ProPublica stories which he claims were “shattering” and made him “jaded, skeptical” – Magness stated that there “isn’t anything magical” about our training programs in the Oregon Project. When asked: “Is there anything you know/believe now that you didn’t know/believe” before you joined the Oregon Project, Magness answered:
“I’d say coming here reconfirmed most of my beliefs. Where I’ve learned the most is how the little things add up to make a difference. The details matter. You need to do them and get them right.”
He was then asked if there were any magic workouts or magic systems and he responded:
“There’s no one magical system. The big thing is the training has to be gradual, progressive, individualized and logical.”
He was then asked about the resources available to athletes in the Oregon Project. He responded:
“In our group, we try and do things perfectly because that’s the only way we are going to close the gap [with the Kenyans and Ehtiopians].”
He was asked if science holds the answer to improved distance running. He responded:
“…science is never going to be perfect…we have to figure out how best to use it and not be a slave to it…it allows for little adjustments on our journey towards perfection. It doesn’t create the training. Where science plays an important role is in the extra stuff like nutrition, supplements, recovery and strength training.”
He was asked why Mo Farah had catapulted himself to such consistent, high-level performances after joining the Oregon Project. Magness responded:
First off, I think the training partnership between Galen and Mo is absolutely paramount. They work very well together. Secondly, Mo is in a structured program where all the little details are taken care of. Again, it isn’t anything magical: It’s just giving him what he didn’t have in his previous program and bringing him along gradually. One of the real key’s to Mo’s success is his attitude towards training. In particular, his training partnership with Galen, he didn’t let his ego get in the way. He didn’t try to do too much, too soon to catch up to Galen training-wise.
He was then asked that Galen’s lifetime improvement curve has been long and gradual…is there room for more at the top end? Magness answered:
Galen still has a lot of room for improvement. Alberto’s done an amazing job at taking a long, gradual approach and there are still several things in the training bag where Galen can see nice improvements.
He was then asked if he could imagine himself staying with Nike performance running groups for some time to come. Magness responded:
As I stated when is started, this is my dream job. I owe Alberto and Nike a lot in giving me this opportunity, so I hope I do a good enough job in developing runners to stick around for a very long time. This is where I want to be, and I plan on doing everything possible to stay here.
Magness’ comments to Runner’s World in July 2011 directly contradict what he is now alleging. After a year of research at great expense, the BBC and ProPublica journalists fail to mention that. Magness’actions in 2011-2012 also directly contradict what he is now alleging. Magness signed a 1-year contract with the Oregon Project in 2011. He signed a second 1-year contract with Oregon Project in 2012 – many months after the events he claims were so troubling to him. The facts about the program didn’t change in 2012. What changed was that Magness’ contract was terminated.
The allegations he has made since he was terminated are not true. Let’s look at what really happened, documented by contemporaneous emails and other documents.
February 2011–Prednisone and the Mayo Clinic
In the story, Magness claims that I “wanted” Galen to take prednisone for a 5k race in Dusseldorf. That is false. Here is what really happened.
January 22, 2011: Galen suffered an acute asthma attack during a race at the Boise Invitational. http://www.trackfocus.com/gprofile.php?mgroup_id=45597&do=news&news_id=213325 He pulled out of the race with a ¼ mile left while he was leading by 50 meters. His doctors immediately prescribed prednisone (40 mg/day) to treat him.
January 23, 2011: Galen’s doctors increased his prednisone dosage to 60 mg.
Magness emailed me the USADA and IAAF forms for filing a TUE for Galen. I forwarded the forms to Galen’s doctor for him to complete. See Exhibit 1.
January 24, 2011: After a thorough examination, Galen’s doctors prescribed that complete full course of prednisone through January 28, 2011.
Galen and his doctors submitted an Emergency TUE request to USADA to submit to the IAAF to allow Galen to participate in the Millrose Games on January 28, 2011.
January 25, 2011: Galen notified USATF that he is withdrawing from Millrose Games because IAAF has not acted on his Emergency TUE request yet.
January 27, 2011: IAAF denied the Emergency TUE for the January 28, 2011 competition and advised that Galen file a complete TUE request if he desired to compete at future IAAF events while on prednisone.
I email Amy Eichner at USADA to see how long it will take prednisone to clear Galen’s system to determine if a TUE will be necessary for his next competition on Saturday, February 5, 2011. See Exhibit 2.
Amy responds that it is tricky to predict how quickly prednisone will clear his system and it is impossible to determine whether 5-7 days will be enough time. See Exhibit 2.
January 28, 2011: I emailed Amy Eichner to ask if USADA would test Galen, at Galen’s expense, on Tuesday or Wednesday the next week to see if the prednisone had cleared. Tuesday would be 5 days after he last took prednisone. See Exhibit 2.
Amy responded that USADA is not permitted to perform tests requested by athletes. See Exhibit 2.
Galen withdrew from the February 5, 2011 race.
February 2, 2011: Magness determined that the Mayo Clinic could perform prednisone test. See Exhibit 3.
I emailed Amy Eichner to see if the Mayo Clinic glucocorticoid test is equal to the WADA/IAAF test. Galen is scheduled to compete in Dusseldorf on February 11, 2011, which would be 15 days after he last took prednisone. See Exhibit 3.
Amy emailed back that she would ask around to see if she could find a way forward and noted that Galen was “lucky to have someone working so hard in his interest.” See Exhibit 3.
I then forwarded my email exchange with Amy Eichner about the Mayo Clinic test to Melissa Beasley at USATF.
February 3, 2011: Amy Eichner advised me to contact Daniel Eichner, USADA’s Science Director for advice on the Mayo Clinic’s testing sensitivity. See Exhibit 4. The Mayo Clinic’s test is more sensitive than the test used by WADA and IAAF.
February 6, 2011: Galen’s urine sample is collected.
February 7, 2011: Magness delivered Galen’s sample to the Mayo Clinic.
February 10, 2011: Mayo Clinic faxed me results of test. I emailed test results to Amy Eichner and John Frothingham at USADA. See Exhibit 5.
Magness advised me that Galen had developed a cough. See Exhibit 6.
February 11, 2011: Galen completed Dusseldorf 5k in 13:21.
This timeline and exhibits demonstrate that Galen took prednisone in January 2011 for 5 days to treat a medical emergency upon the advice and supervision of his doctors. I did not “want” Galen to take prednisone for any competitive purpose. In fact, I wanted the exact opposite and went to great lengths and expense to be absolutely certain that Galen did not have prednisone in his system when he competed. It is also clear that I made sure that USADA was fully informed at all times throughout this process. The USATF and the IAAF were also advised of the situation.
Sending Azithromycin-Pak and Nasonex
Magness next alleges that he was “confused” by medicine that I sent Galen in Birmingham and that Magness “never asked” what the medicine was. While it makes for a better story, those allegations are also untrue. Galen was sick, and I sent Galen his prescription medicines: Azithromycin-Pak and Nasonex – neither of which is a banned substance. There are emails between myself and Magness that contradict what he is now saying. . Here is what happened:
February 11, 2011: Galen’s cough and congestion worsen. Galen’s doctor prescribes Azithromycin-Pak 250mg tablets and Nasonex 50mcg/inhaler. I picked up Galen’s prescription from the pharmacy and overnighted it to his hotel in Birmingham, UK.
February 12, 2011: Galen emailed that his cough had gotten worse and sounded quite “juicy” but he believed the Z-Pak would be able to knock it out. See Exhibit 7.
I notified Ian Stewart at UK Athletics that I have overnighted Galen his Z-Pak (Azithromycin-Pak 250mg tablets) but was concerned that it would get caught up in customs. To avoid that, I noted that I placed the pills in a magazine. I asked Ian to have Dr. Thing prescribe the same medicine for Galen in the UK in case his prescription that I had sent does not arrive. See Exhibit 7.
February 13, 2011: Magness emailed that Galen’s cough was worse after running and he has modified his workout to allow time for the “cough and such to settle down.” He further advised that Galen was on cough medicine and paracetamol. See Exhibit 7.
Galen emailed me the name of his cough medicine and that he and Magness did a USADA drug search to make sure it was ok. See Exhibit 8.
I emailed Galen that the FedEx package with the Z-Pak had cleared customs and he should receive it by noon the next day. I advised him to confirm that the front desk had both Galen’s name and Magness’ name on file so they would accept the package. See Exhibit 9.
February 14, 2011: Galen emailed that he received the Z-Pak and took the first dose at about noon. See Exhibit 9.
Magness emailed: “Got the medicine. No problems.” See Exhibit 10.
I sent Galen his Nasonex prescription. I put it inside a paperback book.
February 15, 2011: I emailed Spencer Barden that Galen’s nasal spray prescription had cleared customs and Galen would receive it by noon. See Exhibit 11.
February 16, 2011: Galen emailed that he had received the Nasonex. Noting my peculiar packaging, he wrote: “You went all Shawshank Redemption on that book and nasal spray. I loved it!!!” See Exhibit 12.
These documents demonstrate that throughout this process we took great care to insure that all medications and treatments fully complied with the WADA Code and IAAF anti-doping rules. I also kept UK Athletics, the race organizers, fully informed.
These documents also show that Magness must have known that I was sending Galen his prescription medicine to treat his illness. Magness’ claims that he did not know are contradicted by the documents. The suggestion the Z-Pak was something other than Galen’s antibiotics is duplicitous. While it probably wasn’t the best way to send these lawfully prescribed medications, I fully disclosed these actions to Galen, Magness and UK Athletics as they were happening.
The Mistaken Notation from 2002
In the BBC/ProPublica stories, Magness makes numerous allegations about a mistaken notation in a log-book charting athletes’ hemoglobin levels. The specific notation related to a December 2002 notation for Galen Rupp that states: “presently on prednisone and testosterone medication.”
I specifically recall the incident and Magness bringing it to my attention. Magness’ description of what I said is inaccurate. I did not disparage Dr. Myhre, for whom I had great respect. My clear recollection is that when he showed it to me, I stated that the entry was “crazy” as Galen had never taken testosterone. I then stated that Galen, as a 16-year old kid, must have misspoken about the supplements he was taking. Like many legal supplements, the labels make a number of claims about boosting one’s testosterone, improving performance and other such marketing statements. Galen likely made some comment about taking something related to a testosterone supplement. I told Magness to take it back to the lab and have them straighten things out. I didn’t think much of it afterwards since I knew it was a mistake and because Magness never mentioned it again.
Magness’new allegations and suggestions about what occurred are not true. Additionally, the notation related to an event in 2002 – 9 years before Magness joined the Oregon Project when he and Galen were both still in high school.
I could only speculate about why Magness would inappropriately photograph and retain the medical records of an athlete without authorization and then wait 3 years to share it with the press. However, unlike Magness, I won’t do that here. What I do know is that when Magness had a prime opportunity to discuss his concerns publicly (in his Runner’s Worldinterview), he failed to do so. Note the July 31, 2011 Runner’s World interview which was only a few short months after Magness saw the mistaken entry. Magness’ own words in 2011 are quite telling. His actions also speak volumes. After reading Galen’s chart, he did not leave the Oregon Project. Rather he stayed for another 18 months. Magness didn’t leave until I terminated his contract in June 2012. As I noted above, Magness’ actions in 2011 and 2012 are directly contrary to his alleged alarm and concern described by the BBC and ProPublica.
There is another important point to remember about 2011: Dr. Myhre—who made the notation in Galen’s records—was still alive. Had Magness raised the issue publicly then, Dr. Myhre would have easily been able to correct any misstatements by Magness. It is unfortunate that this piece of paper only became public now that Dr. Myhre is no longer here to explain.
The facts further show that this entry was a mistake. I searched all available documents to determine as best as possible how this mistaken notation came to be made. These events occurred nearly 13 years ago so some records no longer exist and Dr. Myhre has passed away. I tried to find as many source documents as I could. I have looked at the log-book, checked my records, spoken with Galen and his parents and have reviewed Galen’s medical records. Here is what I found.
First, the prednisone. The BBC/ProPublica stories have used this notation to allege that Galen has been taking prednisone continuously for years. That is completely false. Galen has not taken prednisone continuously. Galen has taken prednisone only as directed by his doctors for short periods of time. As to the December 2002 notation, Galen’s doctors had prescribed Augmentin to treat a sinus infection a few days earlier. Subsequently he developed airway inflammation and was prescribed Prednisone to calm down the airways.
None of Galen’s medical records indicate him ever being prescribed testosterone. And when asked, Galen has clearly stated that he did not take testosterone in December 2002 or at any other time. Galen also has stated that at that time in 2002, he did take legal supplements that claimed to naturally increase testosterone production. He only took supplements that the Oregon Project had tested and knew were not contaminated.
Galen does not recall exactly which supplement he took in 2002. It could have been Testoboost, Alpha Male, Tribex or ZMA. All are legal supplements that make essentially the same claims. Galen does not recall exactly what he said to Dr. Myhre in December of 2002. He believes that he referred to his supplements as his testosterone supplements, stuff, pills or medication. He does not recall the precise language he would have used. He is absolutely certain, however, that he did not and would not have taken any banned substance.
Galen’s mother has also confirmed that Galen did not take any banned substances. In 2002, Galen was still in high school and living at home. She made certain that she learned everything she could to protect her son. According to her, she read and researched every product before Galen would be permitted to take it. See Exhibit 13.
Galen’s performance record further demonstrates that he has never used testosterone. Many people have commented that Galen’s lifetime improvement curve has been long and gradual. For example, Amby Burfoot’s questions to Steve Magness state it. Long and gradual improvement is the antithesis of doping and testosterone use. There is no basis for these false accusations against Galen.
Oregon Project Athletes and Supplements
Oregon Project athletes are only to use legal supplements from a limited number of suppliers. I insist that all supplement batches be tested before any Oregon Project athlete takes one.
Also, all Oregon Project athletes are instructed to declare any and all supplements that they are currently taking on their USADA or IAAF Doping Control Official Record forms whenever they are tested. Neither USADA nor the IAAF has ever raised an issue with any of the supplements listed on an Oregon Project athlete’s declaration form.
In addition to speaking with Galen and his parents, I have researched my records regarding supplements and have found the following supplements that have been tested and used by Oregon Project athletes.
Testoboost: Testoboost is a legal supplement that was used at various times by Oregon Project athletes. The label stated: “Testosterone Hormone Enhancer V30.” Aegis Analytical Laboratories tests confirmed that the supplement did not contain any steroids, precursors or stimulants. See Exhibit 14. Galen has disclosed Testoboost on his USADA Doping Control Official Record forms. Oregon Project athletes appear to have stopped using Testoboost in or about 2006.
Alpha Male: Alpha Male is a legal supplement that has been used at various times by Oregon Project athletes. The label stated: “Maximum Strength Pro-Testosterone Formula.” Aegis Analytical Laboratories tests confirmed that the supplement did not contain any steroids, precursors or stimulants. See Exhibit 15. Galen has disclosed Alpha Male on his USADA Doping Control Official Record forms.
Tribex: Tribex is a legal supplement that has been used at various times by Oregon Project athletes. The label stated: “Chromadex, Tribex, Tribulus terrestris.” Aegis Analytical Laboratories tests confirmed that the supplement did not contain any steroids, precursors or stimulants. See Exhibit 16.
I recall one additional supplement, ZMA being used in the early days of the Oregon Project. I have not found the old documentation for ZMA. It is well known and completely legal. It clearly did not contain any banned substances, as none of the Oregon Project athletes taking it tested positive for any banned substance.
These records demonstrate my commitment to insure that Oregon Project athletes do not consume any banned substances, even inadvertently. The use of these legal supplements also underscores that Galen was not using testosterone.
Lastly, since the BBC/ProPublica stories were published, there has been a Runner’s Worldarticle in which doctors have attempted to interpret what the ambiguous notation “testosterone medication” means. In that article, Magness makes further comments about what he wants people to believe those documents say. He claims that it “blows his mind” that Dr. Myhre could have made a “grade-school-like error” in the notations. Yet Magness did not afford Dr. Myhre the opportunity to publicly explain and correct the notation in 2011 when he had an opportunity to do so. Mistakes and imprecise notations happen.
But here is the truth: Oregon Project athletes, including Galen Rupp, were not micro-dosing testosterone as Magness seems to suggest. It is unfortunate that Dr. Myhre is not here to put this to rest.
The Sabotage Test
Magness also makes baseless attacks about a test that I conducted on testosterone years before he joined the Oregon Project. Magness did not participate in the test and did not see the test parameters or the test results. He had a brief conversation about the test. Now, years later, he claims in the BBC/ProPublica stories that the purpose of the test was “ludicrious” and then alleges an alternative motive directly contrary to why the test was run and how it was designed. Here is what really happened.
In 2006, Justin Gatlin tested positive for exogenous testosterone. Gatlin asserted that he had not knowingly taken testosterone and claimed that he had been sabotaged by his massage therapist, Chris Whetstine. The Gatlin story was extremely well known throughout the track world. Rumors about whether athletes could test positive by having something rubbed on them after a race and before going to doping control were rampant. See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/06/sports/othersports/06gatlin.html?_r=1&
On May 9, 2009, Galen Rupp’s University of Oregon 4x1 mile relay team set a new NCAA record. Shortly after the race while talking to the press, Galen felt someone rubbing his shoulders. He turned around and it was Chris Whetstine. Galen had heard the stories. He was extremely concerned and called me. I called the USADA hotline to report it. USADA may still have the tapes or notes of my call. Nothing came of it but it caused us grave concern.
Having experienced this scare, we decided to conduct an experiment to determine if it was possible for someone to rub something on an athlete after a race that would cause that athlete to test positive. If it was possible, we wanted to make sure our post-race protocol was structured to eliminate this risk. I was a bit naive and let my paranoia get the best of me here but there was never intent to do anything illegal.
The Gatlin case involved testosterone so we decided to see if rubbing Androgel on an athlete after a race could cause a positive test. Dr. Jeffery Brown set up the experiment. Existing medical literature indicated that eight squirts of Androgel would cause a marked increase in male hormones within 15 minutes of being placed on the skin. Eight squirts, however, is a lot of Androgel and would be clearly noticed by the person on which it was being rubbed. The experiment was designed to see if lower amounts, which the athlete may not notice being applied could trigger a positive test. The subjects for the experiment were my sons, who are the same approximate age as typical elite athletes and are in good physical condition. But are not elite athletes subject to USADA or any other elite testing pool.
In early July 2009, the parameters of the experiment were set and the first part of the test conducted. The initial protocol was to take a urine sample at the beginning as a control. The subjects then ran for 20 minutes on a treadmill at a brisk pace at an ambient temperature of 85ºF to create an aggressive sweat to simulate having run a 5k race or longer. One squirt (1.25 grams) was applied to one subject and two squirts (2.5 grams) was applied to the other sweaty subject. Another urine sample was then taken an hour later. The urine samples were then sent to the Aegis Sciences Corporation for testing. The T/E ratios for the subjects were in the normal range.
After receiving the test results, we re-ran the experiment in late July using the same protocols except this time four squirts (5 grams) of Androgel were applied to the subjects after they had played one-hour of full court basketball at a high level. Again the urine samples were tested by Aegis. This time one of the subjects had a T/E ratio of 2.8:1, which approaches the threshold of 4:1 that could trigger a positive doping violation. See Exhibit 17.
On July 31, 2009, after reviewing the second test results, Dr. Brown emailed me to see if we wanted to run the test a third time using six squirts. I responded that I did not think it was worth it as “The four squirts was an enormous amount that was easily noticed and had to be applied carefully to keep it from falling off.” See Exhibit 17. Dr. Brown agreed and noted that published data indicated “that eight squirts would throw the 4/1 ratio. I responded: “I’ll sleep better now after drug tests at big meets knowing someone didn’t sabotage us!” See Exhibit 17.
On August 5, 2009, Dr Brown noted that while the experiment had demonstrated that it was unlikely that a male athlete could be sabotaged by secretly rubbing Androgel on him after a race, it could take far less Androgel to cause a woman to test positive. We did not test this hypothesis. Instead, Dr. Brown recommended that to avoid the possibility of sabotage, female athletes should not have any physical contact with anybody until after drug testing had been completed.
The above-described evidence makes it abundantly clear that the focus of this experiment was to determine whether or not an athlete could be sabotaged by someone rubbing testosterone gel on the athlete after an event before the athlete reports to doping control. These documents and the experiment’s protocol also make it abundantly clear that this test did not in any way contemplate micro-dosing as alleged by the BBC/ProPublica stories and Magness. If one was testing for micro-dosing as they imply, the protocol would be different and an athlete would be given the gel before exercising.
Bottom line, Magness appears to have imagined a scenario to fit his narrative about the Oregon Project and me without regard for the facts and circumstances of what actually occurred.
Steve Magness–Dream Job Contract Terminated
In the BBC/ProPublica stories, Magness claims he left the Oregon Project because his “anxiety was rising” and he was disillusioned about what we were doing. That is not correct. Magness’ contract was terminated.
It had nothing to do with seeing the mistake in Dr. Myhre’s log-book, nothing to do with supplements, nothing to do with TUEs, but rather because in my opinion Magness proved to be a poor coach who had difficulty building rapport with world class athletes.
Magness was young and inexperienced when I hired him. He had been an accomplished high school runner and was knowledgeable about the science of running. I thought I could develop him into a quality coach. I was proved wrong. In my view, Magness lacked the personality, inter-personal skills and drive to be able to coach elite athletes. He appeared to be intimidated by them and he retreated. He could not run a practice session by himself. He appeared to be unable to motivate the athletes as they ran or observe them. Ultimately, my top runners refused to work with him. It is important to note that as a coach today, in 3 years of coaching the middle and long distance, men’s and women’s programs at a Division 1 school, Magness has not qualified a single runner for the NCAA Track Championships, Indoor or Outdoor.
I assigned Magness to work with a few of the other runners. Eventually, that didn’t work either. Magness appeared to be focused on one female runner, to the detriment of the others. Some Oregon Project runners and staff reported to me that they believed Magness may be having a physical relationship with this runner. I confronted Magness about it and he denied it. I don’t know whether he was telling the truth or not. Nevertheless, I told Magness that whatever was happening had to stop; he had to make it clear to everyone by his actions that he was not having a physical relationship with an Oregon Project athlete. In my opinion, he didn’t. Things only got worse.
His focus on the one female athlete was harmful to the team. He doted on her, and some of his other athletes complained to me about his conduct. In my view, Steve’s behavior became more and more unprofessional and counterproductive.
By early May 2012, I told Magness that I would not be renewing his contract for 2013.
I did not disclose Magness’ contract termination at the time. I wanted him to have an opportunity to learn from his mistakes. I recognized that not everything works out in every position, and you should have a chance to move on. I hoped Magness would be able to do so.
Unfortunately, it is now apparent that Magness has not moved on and seems is willing to make these false statements, say anything, regardless of the truth, and hurt innocent people in order to hurt me.