Oct 13, 2021 - Sports

Runner Mary Cain sues Nike and former coach for alleged abuse

Mary Cain of the U.S. runs during the 3000m final during day three of the IAAF World Junior Championships at Hayward Field on July 24, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon.
Mary Cain running for the U.S. in the 3000-meter event at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon, which she went on to win. Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Distance runner Mary Cain accused Nike and her former coach Alberto Salazar of abuse in a $20 million lawsuit filed this week, the Oregonian first reported.

Why it matters: Cain, 25, had a promising career, becoming in 2013 the youngest American athlete to make a World Championships team at age 17. She alleges in the suit that she faced sustained emotional abuse by Salazar after joining the Nike Oregon Project in 2012, AP noted Tuesday.

  • She accuses Nike of knowing this and failing to intervene. Cain said it affected her physical and mental health.

What they're saying: Kristen West McCall, a Portland lawyer representing Cain, alleged that "Nike was letting Alberto weight-shame women, objectify their bodies, and ignore their health and wellbeing as part of its culture," according to multiple reports.

  • "This was a systemic and pervasive issue. And they did it for their own gratification and profit," McCall added.

For the record: Neither Nike nor Salazar could immediately be reached for comment, but he has previously denied Cain's allegations, which came to international attention in November 2019, when she appeared in a New York Times video op-ed.

  • Nike at the time described Cain's allegations as "deeply troubling" and "completely inconsistent with our values."
  • The company announced in October 2019 that it was shuttering its Oregon athletic training and track program after Salazar was banned from the sport by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for trafficking banned substances.
  • The United States Center for SafeSport issued Salazar with another ban in 2020 following sexual and emotional misconduct allegations and he was later indefinitely barred from athletics, Runners World reports.
Go deeper