Nike has said that it would look into runner Mary Cain’s allegations of abuse while she was part of Alberto Salazar’s training group. The runner says it reached the point where she started having suicidal thoughts and cutting herself.
Cain joined the now-disbanded Nike Oregon Project run by Salazar in 2013, soon after competing in the 1,500m final at track and field’s world championships when she was 17.
Now 23, Cain told the New York Times in a video essay that she joined Nike because she “wanted to be the best female athlete ever.”
“Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike,” she said.
Nike said in a statement these are “deeply troubling allegations that have not been raised by Mary or her parents before. Mary was seeking to rejoin the Oregon Project and Alberto’s team as recently as April of this year and had not raised these concerns as part of that process.”
The sportswear giant added that it would “take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes.”
Cain said that under Salazar’s direction, she was told to lose weight and that he created an “arbitrary number of 114 pounds [51.7kg].”
“He would usually weigh me in front of my teammates and publicly shame me if I wasn’t hitting weight,” she said.
In 2015, Cain said that after a race, she told Salazar and the team’s sports psychologist that she was cutting herself and they “pretty much told me they wanted to go to bed. I think for me that was my kick in the head, where I was like: ‘This is a sick system.’”
Salazar was banned from the sport for four years by the US Anti-Doping Agency for experiments with supplements and testosterone that were bankrolled and supported by Nike. Nike shut down Salazar’s elite program.
In trying to cut weight, Cain said she did not have her period for three years and broke five different bones.
Cain also said that Salazar wanted to give her “birth control pills and diuretics to lose weight, the latter of which isn’t allowed in track and field.”
“I ran terrible during this time,” she added in the video. “It reached a point where I was on the starting line, and I’d lost the race before I started because in my head all I was thinking of was not the time I was trying to hit but the number on the scale I saw earlier that day.”
“I genuinely do have hope for the sport and I plan to be running for many years to come. Part of the reasons why I’m doing this now is I want to end this chapter and I want to start a new one,” Cain said at the end of her seven-minute video.