Mary Cain has alleged that she was emotionally and physically abused by Nike’s track and field program and former coach Alberto Salazar.
Cain said in an op-ed for The New York Times that Nike’s Oregon Project affected her mental and physical health. The American professional runner claims that the intense tactics and pressure enforced by Coach Salazar made her develop suicidal thoughts and she even started cutting herself.
Cain said that when she joined the training program as a 17-year-old teenager in 2013, her dream at the time was to become the fastest girl in America. She recalls that when she arrived in Eugene for the program, she found out that it was run by an all-male staff. These people constantly pressured her to become “thinner and thinner and thinner,” in order to improve her performances. Cain, now 23, says that there was no nutritionist on staff to advise them on proper dieting and as a result, she lost her period for three years and broke five bones.
She said that Salazar was constantly shaming her over her weight in public and did nothing when she told him that she was cutting herself. Cain informed her family about what was happening and she eventually quit the program as her family was horrified.
According to the athlete, the program was designed for men not women. “I got caught in a program designed for men and run by men. Young girl’s bodies are being destroyed by the emotionally and physically abusive system,” she said. She directly called out Nike for not acknowledging the fact that there is there’s a big problem in women’s sports and at Nike. She added that Nike endorses a system that ruins the body of young girls.
The Oregon Project was shut down recently by Nike after Salazar got a four-year ban for doping violations. Before it became defunct, however, Cain attempted to return to her old team earlier this year. Responding to the allegations, Nike said in a statement that the allegations are deeply troubling and that Mary or her parents had not raised these concerns before not even when she wanted to rejoin the program in April this year. “We take the allegations very seriously and will immediately commence an investigation to hear from other athletes who participated in the Oregon Project,” the company said.