Olympian stands firm, but hurt by flak from coach's backers

KARA GOUCHEREUGENE — Kara Goucher appeared worn down physically as she crossed the finish line in 18th place in Sunday’s women’s 5,000 meters in 16:05.35 in the USATF Championships at Hayward Field.

Goucher, bronze medalist at 10,000 in the 2007 World Championships and a two-time Olympian, said she feels “great” physically.

“Emotionally, I’m exhausted,” she said.

The strain of the aftermath of the recent BBC and ProPublica website reports involving doping allegations by Goucher and others against her former coach, Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project, has been overwhelming, she says.

Goucher and her husband, Adam, lived in Portland and trained with Salazar from 2004-11 before they left for Boulder, Colo. Until the recent reports came out, they’d never explained that the reason was what they say are their former coach’s unscrupulous, and in some cases illegal, tactics.

Salazar responded with a 12,000-word rebuttal of the allegations, backed by medical records, emails and other documents, and said he “will never permit doping” with his NOP athletes.

Goucher says she hasn’t since spoken with Salazar, “and I don’t want to,” she said.

But Goucher says she has been bombarded by criticism from Salazar supporters.

“I was labeled a liar, which hurts because I am a very truthful person,” she said. “The whole thing was hurtful. ... I was warned this would happen, but it hurt a lot more than I thought it would.

“I knew it would get ugly. I want to be liked. Everybody wants to be liked. But my love for the sport is much greater than what people think about me. If people think I’m a liar, a manipulator, that sucks. But I care more about the sport. I want my (4-year-old) son to have a sport he can believe in when he gets older.”

Since the BBC documentary and ProPublica report were released, Goucher said she also has received word from many athletes and coaches with material regarding Salazar that could be useful in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of the coach’s practices.

“Constantly, people are passing me information, wanting me to bring it forward,” Goucher said. “I encourage all the people who have reached out to me to reach out to USADA, to please come forward. I pass along everything that you give me, but it’s much stronger if it comes from you. When we have 30 people saying things, (that helps build) the case.

“There are good people out there everywhere, but there’s a lot of fear, a lot of control in the sport. I realize that fear at this point in my career. I know it’s real. People are afraid. But I want to encourage people to share (information) themselves. They can still be anonymous.”

Goucher was asked about alleged differences between her husband and Salazar.

“There’s a definite reason why there was trouble between Adam and Alberto,” she said. “There was a lot of fear involved. I didn’t want to have to share that publicly, but since this is becoming my reputation, my family’s reputation, the companies I work for’s reputation, I will have to share that, unfortunately.”

Goucher has brought her concerns to the USADA and said she is grateful for their ongoing investigation.

“I thank them for staying on it, for taking my truth and listening to it and not passing judgment on it, for fighting to clean up our sport,” she said.

Goucher, who turns 38 on July 9, underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January.

“Then we had the snowiest February on record in Boulder, and my knee flared up,” she said. “Since March, I’ve been healthy, but I didn’t show it (Sunday).”

Goucher didn’t come to Eugene expecting to finish in the top three, which would have qualified her for the World Championships.

“My plan was never to make the team,” she said. “I knew that was completely unrealistic, but I hoped to run something around 15:30. (The Salazar controversy) caught up with me, and it didn’t happen.

“I’m going to keep running as the summer goes along, stick to shorter races. I feel rejuvenated. I’m healthy. I’m going to stay the course, do what I believe. If I can get through this little mess right now and stay healthy, I think I have a shot at getting to where I want to be. But we’ll have to see. I know I’m old. I get it.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers