Mary Cain Abuse Allegations Against Nike Nikes Promise to Change
As a high schooler, Mary Cain was known to be the fastest girl in her generation. At a young age of 17, she was the youngest American to make a world championship track and field team. This all came to an end when she joined Nikes elite Oregon Project, which destroyed her career, both mentally and physically.
In an interview, Cain says that the main problem was the all male coaching staff for this Project, who was not experienced in training a teenage girl. Their training methods broke down her body and caused serious mental effects. The coach, Alberto Salazar, pressed her to become “thinner and thinner” with a goal of 114 pounds. This included weighing her in front of her teammates and competitors, along with public humiliation of shaming her for her weight. To do so, he attempted to put Cain on birth control pills and diuretics to lose weight. She further explains that the team did not include a certified sport psychologist, nutritionist, or anything of the professional sorts. “Instead I was emotionally and physically abused by Alberto and endorsed by Nike.” (Mary Cain). This created a medical condition called RED-S, causing Cain lose her period for three years due to the pressure on her body and weight. From this condition you lose estrogen which can cause bone structures to break down, resulting in her breaking five different bones during that time period.
With all of the pressure Cain began to break down. Without the ability to speak out because of her coach and constant media attention, she felt trapped and alone, leading to suicidal thoughts. She began to cut herself, which other teammates and coaches saw but did not attempt to help her in any way. Cain ultimately quit the team to return home, ruining her chances of competing at the Olympics.
Mary Cain hopes to bring to light the “systemic crisis in women’s sports and at Nike, in which young girls bodies are being ruined by an emotionally and physically abusive system.” She also calls for Nikes action to not just reform their program, but to put more women in power, and protect young girls in the system. Following the release of Cains video, Nike has made a statement that they are vowing to investigate claims into the Oregon Project.