Runner Sues Ex-Coach, Nike for Millions over Alleged Abuse

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Distance runner Mary Cain, whose career fizzled after what she has called four miserable years at the Nike Oregon Project, has filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike.

Cain accused Salazar of emotionally abusing her when she joined the team in 2012 at age 16, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The lawsuit portrays Salazar as an angry control freak who was obsessed with Cain’s weight and publicly humiliated her about it.

FILE - In this April 29, 2016, file photo, Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women's special 1500-meter run at the Drake Relays athletics meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Distance runner Mary Cain, whose career fizzled after what she has called four miserable years at the Nike Oregon Project, has filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

FILE – In this April 29, 2016, file photo, Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women’s special 1500-meter run at the Drake Relays athletics meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Distance runner Mary Cain, whose career fizzled after what she has called four miserable years at the Nike Oregon Project, has filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

That, she said, took a toll on her physical and mental health. Nike was aware but failed to intervene, according to the lawsuit.

Nike did not return messages from the newspaper seeking comment. Salazar could not be reached but has previously denied abuse allegations, and has said neither Cain nor her parents raised concerns while she was part of the program.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Cain alleges Salazar on several occasions required her to get on a scale in front of others and would then criticize her. Salazar also policed Cain’s food intake, she said. At times, Cain was so hungry, she said, she stole energy bars from teammates.

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