Alberto Salazar: Mary Cain treated ‘as a product, not a person’ by Nike Oregon Project

Mary Cain spoke out about the effects of Alberto Salazar’s coaching methods on her health in 2019

American athlete Mary Cain says she was treated “like a product, not a person” during her time at Nike Oregon Project.

Salazar has since been given a four-year ban for doping violations, while Nike launched an investigation into claims made by Cain and other athletes.external-link

“My younger self would excuse the bad behaviour. We were told don’t take it personally, it’s business,” Cain said.

A Nike spokesperson told BBC Sport: “We are committed to driving sustainable long-term change and have identified areas where Nike can and want to do better in supporting women athletes.”

The spokesperson also said Nike is “investing in other ways to understand and support girls and women in sport”

Cain told the New York Times in November that Salazar had demanded she lose weight, and that she was pushed to such extremes that she developed suicidal thoughts.

She did not have a period for three years and suffered five separate bone fractures as a result of the weight loss.

“It took me so long to accept that a lot of the stuff I went through was really messed up,” Cain told Sportshour on BBC World Service.

“I did realise I was being invested in more as a product rather than as a person.”

Cain said that Salazar weight-shamed her in front of other athletes after a college track meet in 2015, and later ignored her when she told him she was self-harming.

“You’re talking about how your coach is treating you in a negative way and you’re expressing concerns over your own personal health. I didn’t want to be taken as being the weak athlete,” she continued.

“I didn’t want to be the weak athlete who couldn’t take it and therefore they [Nike] shouldn’t invest in me.”

Salazar, who denies the claims, told Sports Illustrated in 2019external-link that he “disputed the notion that any athlete suffered abuse or gender discrimination”.

Two of Cain’s former team-mates have since apologised to her for not intervening.

“I personally didn’t expect anybody to even acknowledge the issues that were going on,” she said.

“If you normalise this behaviour, I think it’s very hard for people who were a part of this to really feel sorry about it.

“It was accepted. It was what you had to do.”

Cain has since returned to running and is now partnered with Tracksmith, where she is an employee, rather than a sponsored athlete.

“I was still in that same warped mindset of failure was terrifying, and losing was terrifying, and you only meant something to people if you won everything,” Cain added.

“Returning to running has been a really cathartic experience.”

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