Former American rising star Mary Cain has taken legal action and filed a lawsuit for $27 million against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike, after alleging years of abuse.
Cain was a rising star of American athletics having broken numerous national records in high-school, before her career fizzled out after she claimed she endured four miserable years at the Nike Oregon Project.
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Cain accused Salazar of emotionally abusing her when she joined the team in 2012 at age 16, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The lawsuit portrays Salazar as an angry control freak who was obsessed with Cain’s weight and publicly humiliated her about it.
She claimed this took a toll on her physical and mental health.
The lawsuit also alleged Nike was aware but failed to intervene.
Nike did not return messages from the newspaper seeking comment.
Salazar could not be reached but has previously denied abuse allegations, and has said neither Cain nor her parents raised concerns while she was part of the program.
The lawsuit alleged Cain's food intake was monitored and at times she became so hungry she stole energy bars from teammates.
Cain alleges she was often humiliated when she was told to weigh herself in front of teammates.
“Salazar told her that she was too fat and that her breasts and bottom were too big," the Oregon reported, according to the lawsuit.
Cain went to her parents for support and alleged Salazar eventually tired of the parental interference.
By 2019, Cain says she was depressed, had an eating disorder, generalised anxiety and was cutting herself.
Mary Cain sues Nike
In 2019, Cain told The New York Times in a video essay that she was emotionally and physically abused while in the program.
Nike at the time called the allegations deeply troubling and said it would look into them.
Salazar helped found the Nike Oregon Project to make American distance runners competitive with the rest of the world.
The Nike Oregon Project was disbanded in 2019 after the US Anti-Doping Agency accused Salazar of three violations.
The agency banned him from the sport for four years.
Salazar appealed to the Court for Arbitration for Sport. Last month, the court upheld Salazar’s four-year ban from the sport and some of USADA’s findings.
It ruled that Salazar attempted an “intentional and orchestrated scheme to mislead” anti-doping investigators when he tampered with evidence.
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