The former Nike Oregon Project runner Mary Cain has filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike.
Cain has accused her ex-coach of emotionally abusing her when she joined to team as a 16-year-old. The file claims that Salazar was obsessed with her weight and would compulsively monitor her food intake and force her to weigh herself in front of others.
“Salazar told her that she was too fat and that her breasts and bottom were too big,” the lawsuit alleges.
Cain turned to her parents for support, but Salazar grew weary of the interference, the lawsuit claims.
“He prevented Cain from consulting with and relying on her parents, particularly her father, who is a doctor,” said Kristen West McCall, a Portland lawyer representing Cain.
Cain, who became the youngest American at age 17 to make a World Championships team, detailed the alleged abuse in a 2019 gut-wrenching video for the New York Times.
“I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever,” Cain said. “Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike.”
The pressure ultimately caused her to become depressed, develop an eating disorder and generalized anxiety, as well as a post-traumatic stress disorder. She also had suicidal thoughts and started cutting herself, she said in the video.
“And nobody really did anything or said anything,” an emotional Cain recalled.
Nike, meanwhile, told media outlets in a statement Wednesday that it does not comment on pending litigation.
“Nike is committed to positively affecting the future of sport for women and girls and we are doing more in this space than ever before,” the company said in a statement.