Addenda (including a correction) to the Kara Goucher book-revelations post
Embracing the realities of her story comes at the cost of letting go of more love for the sport of professional running itself
In my post last week about Kara Goucher’s autobiography, I wrote:
it appears indisputable, or uncontested, at this point that Goucher is a victim of sexual assault by Alberto Salazar, even if he may never have a criminal conviction on his record as a result.
I'm glad I included “or uncontested,” because this word became snagged on the eye of a reader who sent me a link to this story. Therein lies a revelation amid minor hilarities:
Nike said in a statement to ABC News, in part, "Sexual misconduct has no place in sports or society and is something we stand vehemently against.... Alberto is no longer a contracted coach, and we shuttered the Oregon Project several years ago ... Mr. Salazar did not engage in any doping of his athletes and not a single Oregon Project athlete was found to have violated the rules."
Salazar also told ABC News, in part, "Any claim that Ms. Goucher was sexually assaulted by me is categorically untrue…….. I have never sexually assaulted Ms. Goucher and never would have done so. The accusation is deeply hurtful and abhorrent and contrary to my fundamental beliefs as a husband, father and deeply devout Catholic."
The person who sent me this was not trying to suggest that Goucher’s account was untrue, but instead was indicating as a matter of record that Salazar had in fact newly denied sexually assaulting her (I was aware of his prior protestations).
Perhaps the message-sender also had the hidden agenda of getting me to notice and remark on various absurdities in Nike’s and Salazar’s statements to ABC News.
First of all, “Salazar never doped his athletes, and his athletes never broke the rules”—and both claims can be later paved over with “We didn't know” if anything damning emerges—is intended to obscure “Salazar broke the rules,” which is why USADA suspended him in 2019.
And second, if the Nike Oregon Project was therefore so pristine, why, after producing multiple Olympic medals and national records, was it “shuttered” at all? (It wasn't terminated all, of course; the same operation continues today with whatever illicit enhancements were borne by the NOP as the Bowerman Track Club. Pan one while praising the other, and you're one addled running pundit.)
Then there's Salazar’s quoted words. In stock, terse denials, always look for use of the passive voice; even people coached by some of the sleaziest and best-paid lawyers on Earth often try to disown buried guilt by resorting to this tactic. Salazar starts with “was not sexually assaulted by me,” but then pivots to “I have never sexually assaulted.” Maybe he was just allowing himself a proper warm-up.
Those same legal advisers at some point might have told him that “I'm a devout Catholic, the idea I would sexually assault someone under my mentorship while describing it as necessary to the process is absurd” plays about as well today as “Me? In a sex scandal? I represent the people of New York!” would (even if George Santos will eventually play it if he hasn't already).
To me, the idea that Goucher would fabricate this story is extremely far-fetched. For one thing, leaving that episode out, it doesn't seem likely that Goucher would have felt such powerful resentment toward Salazar. After all, she did enjoy great performances as an NOP athlete, which can lead someone to overlook some hurtful episodes.
While she was irked about his insistence on her rapidly achieving her pre-pregnancy weight after giving birth to her son Colt, “up the T4 dosage”—her central complaint in the 2015 BBC documentary Catch Me If You Can—isn't the kind of transgression that generally leads a professional athlete to despise someone. And if you watch both of the Gouchers speaking in the documentary, it's clear something uglier was afoot than they could then disclose; many others detected this at the time, too.
So Kara Goucher had no plausible, known incentive to make false accusations and the guarantee of enormous psycho-emotional costs if she made real ones, given the absence of witnesses. That combination adds up to me to “she's telling the truth.”
Since writing a post I titled “The publication of Kara Goucher's book could serve as a turning point in professional running, but it won't,” I've heard from various people who either know Kara Goucher, have worked or trained with her, or are directly familiar with the sources of pressure she has been facing for years to pipe down about all things Nike. (I met her once. She was still an active pro runner, but a very young Colt was with her, and my first impression was the very organic sense I'm sure others have when meeting women for the first time when their children are with them: She's completely devoted to this.)
If nothing else, I chose an apt title. It's infuriating to know the extent to which gears in the corporate mega-machine will grind through human beings—decent people who have earned Olympic and World Championships medals for their country and sponsor, in reverse order—just to try to preserve the illusion they aren't shattering moral, ethical, personal, legal, and pharmaceutical rules at a faster clip than they're demolishing national records.