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A League of Fans Special Feature

Kara Goucher

Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers

Kara Goucher is one of the most popular female long distance runners in American history. She is a two-time Olympian and was the bronze medalist at the 2007 World Track & Field Championships. (Note: Elvan Abeylegesse, the Turkish runner who finished second in that race, was recently found guilty of doping and her results were expunged. As such, Goucher officially finished second.) Goucher also finished third at the 2009 Boston Marathon and was a three-time NCAA champion for the University of Colorado. She has been inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. At the age of 37, Kara placed fourth at the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Today, while continuing to compete, Kara is a whistle-blowing anti-doping warrior. Kara, and her husband Adam, have reported well-known American distance-running coach Alberto Salazar to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That organization is currently investigating the Gouchers’ allegations of wrongdoing regarding Salazar’s training methods and doping. Salazar is currently head coach for the Nike Oregon Project.

Ken Reed, League of Fans’ sports policy director, recently interviewed Kara Goucher.

Reed: After years of living with this knowledge, what was the key spur that inspired you to become an anti-doping whistleblower?

Goucher: We had been approached for years by media wanting to know the “real” reason why we left the Nike Oregon Project. I never felt comfortable about it being public and said to my family that I would only go public when I was done running. Then we were approached by the BBC and ProPublica, who were doing a joint story. My first response was no, but my husband met with them and decided to be a part of the project. He believed they would tell the story authentically. I met with them and realized that they would, that they would do the story justice. It seemed like it was the right time to go public.

Reed: How much help has your husband Adam been in all of this?

Goucher: Without Adam I never would have had the strength to come forward. He helped me get in contact with USADA and he helps me to stand up to the constant harassment that has come with going public. He has been a rock. It’s hard to put into words but I could never have done all of this without him by my side.

Reed: What’s been the hardest part of taking this stand?

Goucher: Probably the harassment. It is never ending. Anytime I do an interview, about anything, I get asked about the case. Even if I give an answer I have given a thousand times before, once the article is published the harassment kicks up again. I don’t go out there looking for people to talk to about it, I get asked about it and I answer. But the never-ending harassment has been the most annoying part.

Reed: What’s been the most meaningful and fulfilling part of taking this stand?

Goucher: For me personally, I feel like I am making a difference for the future of the sport I love so much. And letting it go public and not having to carry around that secret anymore freed me. I was able to get back to a level of racing that I didn’t think I could have gotten back to. It freed me to focus on myself and all the things that I love about running again. I never could have gotten fourth at the Olympic Trials (in the marathon) had I not unburdened myself of it.

Reed: Do you feel like you’re helping the future of the sport and future competitors?

Goucher: Yes. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it would help in the future. It would be much easier to stay silent and move on. I have a lot of other great things in my life besides competitive running and if I didn’t truly believe I’m helping others, I would have just stayed quiet and moved on to the other loves of my life.

Reed: Do you have a sense of how much income you’ve lost due to your stand?

Goucher: It’s tough to say. Right away, within two weeks of the BBC program, I lost a six-figure contract that hadn’t been finalized yet because I went from “American mom” to “controversial”. That was a tough realization. There are publications and companies that won’t touch me now, and that’s been hard. But, in the end, the companies I am with now know full well what I stand for and so they are a better fit for me anyway. It would be tough to give you a firm dollar figure, but it would be significant.

Reed: Can distance running ever be a clean sport at the highest levels?

Goucher: Well that’s the dream. Unfortunately, no, it can never be fully clean. The desire to cheat will always be there for some. But it can certainly be better. We can certainly make it more difficult on those who are willing to blur the lines. My wish would be that we get it a lot cleaner, and that we are constantly retesting samples, not just from the Olympics and World Championships, but from major marathons, from out of competition tests, etc. Let’s make it harder and harder to get away with it.

Let’s let those who cheat live in fear.

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