Lower Hudson Valley Track Prodigy Star Alleges Abuse by Nike
A former lower Hudson Valley track star is making national headlines for alleging a Nike coach abused her.
Mary Cain, a former track star from Bronxville High School in Westchester County, has alleged abuse by the Nike Oregon Project. In a New York Times Video Op-Ed, Mary Cain told her story for the first time ever about her alleged abuse. Cain joined the Nike Oregon Project that was run by coach Alberto Salazar in 2013, as a high school student. Cain joined the Nike Oregon Project at age 17. In 2014, Cain moved to Oregon after graduating high school. Cain is now 23.
Cain alleges that "I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike." Cain says that the all-male Nike staff was certain the only way she could get better was by becoming thinner. Cain says there were no certified sports psychologists or nutritionists on staff. Cain alleges she was publicly shamed by Salazar for gaining weight. Salazar wanted Cain to weigh 114 pounds. Cain says she developed RED-S Syndrome, which made her lose her period for three years. Because she did not have her period for that period of time, she wasn't able to maintain proper estrogen levels for healthy bones. Cain broke five bones. Cain said Salazar wanted to give her birth control pills and diuretics to lose weight, which Cain says the latter isn't allowed in track and field.
In the New York Times video op-ed, Cain also says she began to cut herself and have suicidal thoughts. Cain alleges when she told Salazar and an assistant coach that she had been self-harming, Cain said: "they pretty much told me they just wanted to go to bed." Cain didn't run any races in 2017 or 2018, which she claims is because of the injuries caused by the diet Salazar placed her on. Other Nike athletes have spoken out and confirmed the abusive conditions Cain alleged.
The New York Times reports Nike released the following statement responding to Cain's allegations and the New York Times:
These are deeply troubling allegations which 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. We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes. At Nike we seek to always put the athlete at the center of everything we do, and these allegations are completely inconsistent with our values.
According to the New York Daily News, Cain broke multiple records for high school girls' track. She broke a 3--year-old national record in by mile by seven seconds, beat the high school girls 15000-meter record by 9.9 seconds, and was the first-ever American to win a world junior title in a distance race.
As of fall 2019, the Nike Oregon Project has ended and Salazar has been banned from the sport for four years after running illegal doping experiments, according to the New York Times. Nike's CEO also resigned in October 2019. Salazar denied most of Cain's claims and said he supported her health and welfare, according to The New York Times. On Tuesday, November 4, 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency said it will investigate every athlete who trained under Salazar.