Distance runner Mary Cain files $20M lawsuit against Nike, coach alleging abuse

·2-min read

Content warning: This story contains depictions of physical and emotional abuse and self harm.

Former distance runner Mary Cain is suing Nike and former coach Alberto Salazar for $20 million over allegations of physical and emotional abuse, according to KGW 8 in Portland. 

Cain originally revealed those allegations in a New York Times piece in 2019. In that article, Cain — who was a rising star in the track world before signing with the Nike Oregon Project — said she was constantly told to lose weight by Salazar and his all-male staff. Cain said she would be publicly shamed by Salazar if she failed to hit certain weights. 

Cain began to have suicidal thoughts and started to self harm. She said when she informed Salazar and a sports psychologist about that, Cain was ignored.

The lawsuit — which was filed Monday — makes additional claims suggesting Salazar was aware of Cain's struggles and did nothing to help.

According to Cain, Salazar pushed her to train while she was suffering from painful and debilitating injuries. Cain developed an eating disorder, began self-harming herself and sometimes experienced panic attacks while training. The lawsuit alleges that Salazar knew all of this was happening and did nothing to help.

"Salazar teased her about being emotional, and did so in front of other people, accusing her of being weak because she could not control her emotions," the lawsuit said.

Nike was also reportedly indifferent to Cain's struggles and injuries, Cain alleges in the lawsuit.

Salazar denied all allegations. Nike said it does not comment on "ongoing litigation" in a statement to KGW 8.

Eight other members of the Nike Oregon Project confirmed Cain's allegations a week after the New York Times piece was released in 2019. 

Alberto Salazar banned for anti-doping rule violations

In 2020, Salazar, 63, was suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport due to those allegations. At the time, Nike said it would investigate the matter. After reviewing the matter, the U.S. Center for SafeSport permanently banned Salazar from track and field.

Salazar also received a four-year ban from the the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2019 for allegedly trafficking testosterone. Salazar appealed that ban, but it was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September.

Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women's special 1500-meter run.
Mary Cain sued Nike and former coach Alberto Salazar for $20 million. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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