A League of Fans Special Feature
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.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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