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Runner Mary Cain is suing Nike and her former coach for $20 million over her claims she was abused at a now-closed running program

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Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women's special 1500 meter run at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women's special 1500 meter run at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  • Distance runner Mary Cain is suing Nike and her former coach, Alberto Salazar, for $20 million.

  • She has accused Salazar of emotionally abusing her while she trained at the Nike Oregon Project.

  • She also alleges that Nike failed to intervene.

Distance runner Mary Cain is suing Nike and her former coach, Alberto Salazar, for $20 million over the abuse she claims she faced while training at the now-shuttered Nike Oregon Project.

Cain, now 25, filed the lawsuit on Monday in Oregon's Multnomah County, alleging that Salazar emotionally abused her starting in 2012, when she joined the Nike Oregon Project at 16 years old. She also accused Nike of failing to intervene.

"I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever. Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike," she told The Oregonian about her lawsuit.

According to court filings seen by Insider, lawyers for Cain say Salazar "consistently made comments" about Cain's appearance and weight, compared her to other female athletes, and told her her "breasts and bottom were too big."

"Salazar also tightly controlled plaintiff's food intake on trips abroad and while training in Park City, Utah, leaving plaintiff to steal Clif bars from her teammates and eat them in the bathroom because she was being underfed," the lawsuit says. "As defendant Salazar did this, he stated that he was expert at identifying which female bottoms were that of good runners and which were not."

Lawyers for Cain also claim Salazar would make Cain stand on a scale in front of others, criticized her eating habits, and set an "arbitrary" weight goal of 114 pounds.

According to the lawsuit, Cain said she regularly failed to consume enough food to maintain caloric sufficiency for her training, worked out while injured and sick, and on at least one occasion, tried to vomit to lose weight.

"As a result of Defendant Salazar's and Nike's negligence and fault as alleged above and herein, plaintiff has suffered severe emotional distress, loss of dignity, pride, and self-esteem, developed an eating disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder," the lawsuit said.

Cain first spoke out about the abuse she says she faced in the Nike Oregon Project in an op-ed video published by the New York Times in 2019.

At the time, she claimed her male coaches, including Salazar, were so focused on her losing weight that she broke multiple bones and stopped having her period for three years.

Salazar told Sports Illustrated in 2019 that he "may have made comments that were callous or insensitive" but pushed back on Cain's claims that he was abusive.

"If any athlete was hurt by any comments that I have made, such an effect was entirely unintended, and I am sorry," he said in a statement. "I do dispute, however, the notion that any athlete suffered any abuse or gender discrimination while running for the Oregon Project."

Nike told Insider that it would not comment on Cain's lawsuit due to 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," the company said.

Cain's lawyer did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Read the original article on Insider

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