Story at a glance

  • Distance runner Mary Cain has sued Nike and her former coach Alberto Salazar, alleging psychological and emotional abuse.
  • Cain was a distance runner for Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project from 2013 to 2016.
  • Cain is seeking $20 million in damages.

Distance runner Mary Cain has sued Nike and her former coach Alberto Salazar for $20 million alleging psychological abuse.

Cain filed the lawsuit with Multnomah County Circuit Court in Oregon on Monday.

Cain was signed as a distance runner by Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project in 2013 at the age of 17. She was a ​​1500-meter finalist at the 2013 World Championships in Athletics — the youngest American athlete to ever represent the United States at the event.

In a 2019 op-ed in The New York Times, Cain detailed allegations about how Salazar psychologically and emotionally abused her during her time in the program, leading to disordered eating and suicidal ideations, and how Nike reportedly enabled him to do so. 

Cain ultimately left the Nike Oregon Project in 2016, stating in her NYT article that the extreme dieting and abuse during her three years there caused her to miss her period for three years, break five bones and left her suicidal. These accusations are being used as the basis of Cain’s lawsuit.


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Nike ended the Nike Oregon Project in 2019, following the allegations and Salazar being banned for four years by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for possession of testosterone and impeding the doping control protocol. His ban was upheld in September. 

In July, the U.S. Center for SafeSport banned Salazar from track and field for life following additional allegations of sexual and emotional misconduct. Changing America has been unable to reach Salazar for comment.

When contacted for comment, Nike told Changing America, “We don’t comment on ongoing 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.”


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Published on Oct 13, 2021