2021 Track Championships to bring more years of scandal to UO

Thanks to a reader for the latest link, from Willamette Week’s Aaron Mesh. It’s a very long story, mostly about Alberto Salazar and Mary Cain. Here’s the UO part:

Welcome to Nike Town

Track scandals arrive just as Oregon takes the world stage.

The allegation that Nike abused runners comes as Oregon is poised to host two of the world’s largest track-and-field events in a renovated stadium partially funded by Phil Knight.

The 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field will be held at Eugene’s Hayward Field in June. The following year, Hayward will host the World Athletics Championships, a celebration of running.

The two events offer an unprecedentedly high profile for Oregon track. They will showcase a $200 million remodel of Hayward Field, birthplace of Oregon running—and of Nike. They’ve been championed by UO officials and Gov. Kate Brown, who is seeking another $20 million in taxpayer dollars for the 2021 event.

“It’s truly an honor for the city of Eugene, for the state of Oregon and, frankly, for the entire country to be hosting these games for the first time ever,” Brown said Oct. 10 at a press conference announcing the event.

But the allegations of abuse within the Nike Oregon Project threaten to overshadow the party. An event in a stadium paid for with Knight’s money only increases the scrutiny of the culture inside Nike’s elite running program.

Nike is an official sponsor of Team USA, and has close ties to TrackTown USA, the committee hosting the 2020 Olympic trials, and USA Track & Field, the agency that governs the sport.

So far, none of the organizers are distancing themselves from Nike.

When asked about her agency’s response to the recent Nike scandals, USA Track & Field spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said, “USATF does not compromise athlete health and safety,” and added that Nike is one of its 14 corporate partners, “none of which make business decisions for the [agency].”

Hazzard adds that both upcoming events are stand-alone events “and will be run with the same professionalism and high standards that are expected at such prestigious events.”

USATF declined to answer specific questions about its stance on the Nike scandals.

The University of Oregon athletics department also declined comment. So did Gov. Brown.

 

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