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Nike: The Dubious Cost Of Winning

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When a world-renowned ultra-runner and trainer writes a book about the world’s biggest sports brand, you wonder what he has to say that you haven’t heard before.

Exhibit A: At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the United States won 32 gold medals in athletics. All of these 32 medals were won by Nike sponsored athletes. This statistic mentioned by the author of Win At All Costs: Inside Nike Running And Its Culture of Deception is just beginning to describe the disproportionate influence that Nike exerts on world athletics.

Exhibit B: After years of supporting their star athlete, Lance Armstrong, Nike finally severed ties with him in 2012, when the evidence against him became embarrassingly obvious. Until he was released by former teammates, he was bragging about his so-called clean record and his unprecedented 7 titles in the Tour de France, the pinnacle of cycling.

In Win at all costs: Inside Nike Running and its culture of deception, Matt Hart’s intention is to give the reader pause and consider the ‘win at any cost’ approach that the company has pursued for three decades, as evidenced by its former star athlete and then famous trainer, the now disgraced Alberto Salazar. . As the manager of the Nike Oregon Project, Salazar is used as an example of the pernicious tactics employed by Nike in its quest to strengthen its brand through the success of its athletes, through whatever they can do. While disturbing doping controls is primarily what the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) banned Salazar from for four years in 2019 (by the way, his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) comes this month), this is just one of the many transgressions he appears to have committed as a coach. When you consider the behaviors presented by Salazar starting with inappropriately commenting on the bodies of female athletes, intimidating them about their careers or trying to force them to delay their family formation, accessing the private conversations of his athletes with their “ psychologist ”, enjoying the misery of a rival coach’s athlete injuries, being so sore by the losses of his athletes to their rivals that he would file objections to their performances and try to make them disqualify or their results canceled, you realize “unsportsmanlike” is woefully insufficient.


What’s also baffling about this set of events, especially someone outside of the athletic world, is how others associated with Salazar seem to have escaped censorship – Nike employees who funded and helped his operation and some of the athletes who trained under him. . For example, how Mo Farah, the two-time gold medalist from the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, saw no official sanction is a puzzling question. Farah severed ties with Salazar in 2017, long after the Rio Olympics. On the issue of bullying female athletes in particular, particularly on maternity leave, Nike was criticized in 2018 and 2019 for contractual terms that discouraged its female athletes from getting pregnant, with up to 70% reduction in salary (even for a person with nine years). Olympic medals) when they were not in competition. Kara Goucher’s tug of war over this pay cut issue while pregnant with her first child is one of the many ugly but necessary stories to be read in the book. Nike launched a maternity line in September 2020, do what you want with it.

You could be forgiven for being deeply cynical about professional sport – given the frequency of doping busts in cycling, track and field and swimming (three categories of sports that make up a significant portion of medals at the Olympics ) in the last two. decades. The book is a wake-up call to how blind companies and the people who work for them – not to mention the countries where these companies are based – can come to light. And if Nike and running in the United States, in particular, are the focus of the author’s attention, one wonders how deep the rot is in other sports, other businesses and other countries. Thinking that we would have learned from the horrors of state sponsored doping programs in East Germany in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Cold War may have been over three decades ago, but as it has shown ‘Ma Chinese army in the late 90s and the Russians depicted in the documentary Icarus, the battles moved to other fronts. And apparently, you do whatever you think you can get away with. There may be some hope in the form of brilliant journalists and whistleblower athletes and officials, but it seems like a Sisyphus task to clean up the sport.

Also Read: Sachin Tendulkar Shares The Secret Of His Famous Uppercut Shot

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