EUGENE, Ore. – Galen Rupp knew he had to make a move.
With 2 and 1/2 laps to go in the 10,000-meter at the USATF Outdoor Championships, the Olympic silver medalist could feel the race starting to bunch up. There were too many people around.
Rupp surged to the lead.
“It wasn’t really planned, but it happened,” he said. “At that point, I thought it was probably best just to stay out of trouble, so I ended up going to the front and just starting to push it there.”
Known for his finishing kick — though this was a bit early — Rupp went on to win his seventh consecutive U.S. 10K title with a time of 28 minutes, 11.61 seconds. Rupp also qualified for the world championships in Beijing in August.
Ben True was second in 28:14.26 and Hassan Mead placed third at 28:16.54.
Rupp gave a thumbs-up at the finish line before a standing ovation at Hayward Field, where he was an Oregon Duck before turning pro.
“The support I receive down here and everywhere has just been tremendous,” Rupp said. “It was just kind of a thanks to everybody for their continued support over the years and obviously I was happy to win, too.”
True said the heat took a toll on him, sapping his energy.
“I knew Galen was going to go,” he said. “We started slowing down a lot and you could tell he was getting agitated (running) behind. I wanted to get in front of him so he’d have to go around me. When he went, I couldn’t match it.”
While Rupp had the power to stay out of trouble in the race, he’s been caught up in accusations of doping and unethical behavior for nearly a month. The allegations have swirled around his coach, Alberto Salazar, who released a 12,000-word rebuttal on Wednesday. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has reportedly begun investigating Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project.
“It’s been hard; I’m not going to lie,” Rupp said. “It’s been difficult to focus, but I’m real happy that report came out yesterday and I stand behind it 100 percent. I believe in clean sport and I think the truth will prevail.”
Rupp, who will try to win another national title on Sunday in the 5,000-meter, said he has seen the strain on Salazar as he prepared his rebuttal.
“Obviously, he’s been working hard on it,” Rupp said, “but we always have business to take care of on the track. This is a big meet and so we definitely wanted to make sure that all our focus is on there and it is. I think that we showed that tonight and I’ll be able to go again Sunday.”
Rupp’s training partner, double Olympic champion Mo Farah of Great Britain, was so concerned about the allegations that he dropped out of a meet. Rupp said they have been in communication, but he didn’t say if Farah has decided to stay with the program.
“I can’t speak for him, obviously, but I think that we’ve got a great thing going and he’s had great success,” Rupp said. “We know we do things the right way. That’s all I’ve got to say to him and the rest is up to him.”
Rupp said that to keep his mind off the turmoil, he sometimes just needs to take a step back. “I’m ready to race,” he said. “This is why I compete and I’m not going to let anything get in the way.”
True, who is following the reports, has tweeted evidence that he is racing clean.
“Allegations are allegations, rumors are rumors,” True said.
He said he doesn’t take ibuprofen and drinks Gatorade maybe twice a year. He does take probiotics because he’s lactose intolerant, vitamin D in the winter and melatonin to sleep.
“Other than that, just food,” True said. “I don’t even eat energy bars.”
Then he admitted he has one vice. “I drink coffee,” True said. “I’m a coffee snob.”
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 14 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.