Runner Sues Coach, Nike: I Was So Hungry I Stole Food

Mary Cain says she was so underfed she stole Clif Bars
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2021 11:31 AM CUT

(Newser) – In 2015, Newser summarized a New York Times Magazine profile of Mary Cain. Our headline: "This Teen Runner May Be the Best Ever, Someday." That's not what happened, and now Cain is suing. On Monday, the now-25-year-old filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former distance running coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike, alleging she suffered years of emotional abuse under Salazar, and that Nike knew about it but did nothing. Her claims aren't new: She aired them in November 2019, describing pressure to be "thinner and thinner and thinner," to the point where she went three years without her period, lost bone strength and broke five bones, and started cutting herself.

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She finally quit Salazar's Nike Oregon Project, which Nike shut down in October 2019 after Salazar received a four-year ban from the sport for "multiple anti-doping rule violations." The suit alleges Salazar on some occasions made Cain weigh herself in the presence of others and criticized her as fat, with "breasts and bottom [that] were too big," reports the Oregonian. Cain describes stealing Clif Bars from her teammates and eating them in the bathroom due to the restrictive diet Salazar had her on, reports KGW.

In addition to cutting, she says that by 2019 she was suffering from depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and PTSD. The suit alleges Nike’s in-house sports psychology consultant, Darren Treasure, was aware of this but didn't take action, other than to pass along "sometimes intimate and confidential information" to Salazar. Runner's World notes that after a second ban in 2020, Salazar's coaching status is now "permanent ineligible." The Oregonian couldn't get a comment from Nike or Salazar; Nike told KGW it doesn't comment on active litigation. (Read more Mary Cain stories.)

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