A track star who made history as a teen has filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and his employer, Nike.
Mary Cain, a middle-distance runner, accuses Salazar of emotionally abusing her during her time in the Nike Oregon Project, OregonLive reports. Cain was only 16 when she joined the program in 2012, but due to the mental and physical toll on her body, the alleged abuse disrupted her meteoric rise in the sport, as she claimed in a 2019 video essay from The New York Times.
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday (October 10) in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges Nike was aware of these issues but didn't intervene. Cain says she had depression, an eating disorder, generalized anxiety, and other mental health issues by 2019.
"Nike was letting Alberto weight-shame women, objectify their bodies, and ignore their health and wellbeing as part of its culture," Kristen West McCall, a Portland lawyer representing Cain, told reporters. "This was a systemic and pervasive issue. And they did it for their own gratification and profit."
At 17, Cain became the youngest athlete to represent the United States at a World Championship series back in 2013. She also broke records at the high school level and even participated in the Olympic Trials.
Salazar, who's also an acclaimed runner, has previously denied the abuse allegations. He helped found the Nike Oregon Project but the team was disbanded in 2019 following accusations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Salazar was banned from the sport for four years.
OregonLive reached out to Nike for comment on the lawsuit, but their request hasn't been returned.