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Mary Cain, the former teenage prodigy has launched a suit against her former coach Alberto Salazar. Salazar was the Head Coach of the now folded Nike Oregon Project (NOP).
Cain accuses Salazar of publicly shaming her over her weight, which led to depression, an eating disorder and self-harm, for example, cutting herself. She alleges that she told others at Nike or NOP and her concerns were ignored.
When Cain was 16-years-old, she claims that she suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of Salazar. At that time, she was generally considered the the most talented high school track athlete in the US. She alleges that her experience led to depression, an eating disorder, anxiety and PTSD.
The lawsuit describes Salazar as a controller with anger issues. He was apparently obsessed with her weight. He publicly admonished her for gaining small amounts of weight and she alleges weighed her in front of teammates to shame her.
According to the Oregonian, “Salazar told her that she was too fat and that her breasts and bottom were too big,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Nike was letting Alberto weight-shame women, objectify their bodies, and ignore their health and wellbeing as part of its culture,” said Kristen West McCall, a Portland lawyer representing Cain. “This was a systemic and pervasive issue. And they did it for their own gratification and profit.”
This suit is interesting in that Nike athletes sign non-disclosure statements. Blowing the whistle on NOP and Salazar is an act in contravention of the agreement. Kara Goucher, Steve Magness and others have come out against NOP and Salazar.
After an investigation, Salazar was suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency during the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships. He was removed from the meet and his athletes were left without a coach. He received an appealable four year suspension, which has since been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Salazar himself was an elite marathon runner, winning several races including the New York City and Boston Marathons. He earned a silver medal in the World Cross Country Championships. He owns a 2:08:51 personal best in Boston, a non-eligible course for records. His best from New York is 2:09:21, long suspected to be a short course.
Cain ended up suffering from several injuries and not living up to the potential that Salazar thought she would. She abruptly left the NOP back to her parent’s home on the east coast. The New York Times published an article and a first-person video of Cain speaking about the harm that she suffered at NOP.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Read full lawsuit, here>>