Nike is launching an investigation after a former Hudson Valley high school track and field superstar alleged that Nike coach Alberto Salazar led an “emotionally and physically abusive system.”
Nike launched an “immediate investigation” into allegations from Bronxville High School graduate Mary Cain, who joined Nike and the running group, the Oregon Project, which was shut down last month amid a doping scandal that led to a four-year ban for Salazar.
In a New York Times article and video released on Thursday, Nov. 7, Cain alleged that Salazar and his team pushed her to lose weight through under-eating, birth control pills, diuretics, and other nefarious means. Salazar allegedly told Cain that she needed to be 114 pounds and publicly shamed her if she failed to cut weight.
According to the report, Cain, now 23, lost her period for years, broke multiple bones and began cutting herself.
Nike found itself in hot water with its response to the allegations, calling it “deeply troubling,” before continuing to state that “the allegations have not been raised by Mary or her parents before.
“Mary was seeking to rejoin the Oregon Project and Alberto’s team as recently as April of this year, and had not raised these concerns as part of that process.”
Salazar issued a similar statement denying the allegations and noting that no protestations were brought up by Cain or her family, though Cain’s former Nike teammates spoke out and confirmed her account on social media.
On social media on Friday, Nov. 8, Cain, a finalist at the 2013 World Championship and World Junior 3K champion, issued a statement following the release of the Times article and Nike’s statement regarding her claims.
“I’m not afraid anymore. As recently as this summer, I still thought: ‘maybe if I rejoin the team, it’ll go back to how it was.’ But we all come to face our demons in some way. For me, that was seeing my old team this last spring,” she said. “I wanted closure, wanted an apology for never helping me when I was cutting, and in my own, sad, never-fully healed heart, wanted Alberto to still take me back. I still loved him. Because when we let people emotionally break us, we crave more than anything their very approval.
“So when he opened up about his struggles... I felt maybe we were going somewhere. I was cognizant that he pushed my own story of depression and my attempts to purge aside, but I thought his opening up could be a first step. But it wasn’t. We quickly fell out of touch this summer, and that made the rose color glasses finally fall off. He didn’t care about me as a person; only as the product, the performer, the athlete. Then, after the USADA report dropped, I felt this quick and sudden sense of release.
“No more wanting them to like me. No more needing their approval. I could finally look at the facts, read others' stories, and face: THIS SYSTEM WAS NOT OK. I stand before you today because I am strong enough, wise enough, and brave enough. Please stand with me.”
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