According to the suit, Alberto Salazar mentally abused runner Mary Cain by breaking her down physically and emotionally. It also says Nike was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Former youth distance running star Mary Cain is suing Nike and a training coach for $20 million over claims that she was emotionally abused for several years in a program designed to develop track stars.
The suit accuses coach Alberto Salazar of starting the abuse when Cain joined the Nike Oregon Project in 2012 when she was 16.
According to the suit, Salazar mentally abused Cain by breaking her down physically and emotionally, particularly over her weight. It also says Nike was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Cain was one of the top prep distance runners when she joined Nike's program and had shattered numerous high school records and qualified for the world championships.
Cain says in the suit that Salazar forced her to get on scales in front of others to embarrass her for her weight. Court documents also describe Salazar as a control freak who complained about the size of her physical attributes.
"He prevented Cain from consulting with and relying on her parents, particularly her father, who is a doctor," Cain's attorney Kristen West McCall told The Oregonian. "Nike was letting Alberto weight-shame women, objectify their bodies, and ignore their health and well-being as part of its culture.
"This was a systemic and pervasive issue. And they did it for their own gratification and profit."
The Nike Oregon Project was established in 2001 and lasted until 2019, when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banned Salazar and Nike consultant Jeffrey Brown for four years for enabling unlawful doping.
About three months ago, the U.S. Center for SafeSport also imposed a permanent ban to bar Salazar from coaching American track and field athletes following accusations of sexual and emotional misconduct.