PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A one-time runner for Nike’s Oregon Project said training with Alberto Salazar turned her from being a gold medal hopeful into a young woman whose body broke down and caused her to have suicidal thoughts, the New York Times reports.
In the article, “I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike,” Mary Cain describes the program Salazar implemented by decree.
He forced her to lose weight and “picked an arbitrary number of 114 pounds,” Cain says in the NY Times video. He wanted her to use birth control pills and diuretics — which are not allowed in track and field.
Salazar repeatedly yelled at her in front of the team. And when races began, she said, she had already lost because she was more focused on making Salazar’s decreed weight rather than a time for the race.
She ended up cutting herself and having suicidal thoughts, Cain, now 23, said in the NY Times video. She got to the point where she wasn’t trying to make the Olympics. She was just trying to survive. That’s when she quit the team.
“This system is sick,” she said.
She decided to speak out because “Nike needs to change.” She’s concerned Nike will just rebrand Salazar’s old program and she called for more women to be in positions of power at Nike.
And by speaking out, she said she wants to end this chapter of her life and start a new one.
In an email to the NY Times, Salazar denies Cain’s claims and said he supported her health and welfare.
Salazar was given a four-year ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency at the end of September. USADA said in a news release that Salazar and Jeffrey Brown were receiving the bans for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone while working at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), where they trained top runners.
Nike declined to comment about Cain’s claims, the NY Times said. But Nike responded to a request from KOIN 6 News with the following statement:
“These are deeply troubling allegations which 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. We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes. At Nike we seek to always put the athlete at the center of everything we do, and these allegations are completely inconsistent with our values.”
Each athlete who trained with Alberto Salazar at Nike will be investigated, the World Anti-Doping Agency told the NY Times.