Nike, Alberto Salazar and Top Pros Respond To Mary Cain’s Allegations

November 8, 2019

It didn’t take long for the responses to start pouring in after the allegations made by former teen track and field sensation Mary Cain yesterday in a video essay produced by The New York Times in which she alleged former Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar publicly fat-shamed her and showed little concern when she became suicidal.

Nike issued a statement saying they took the allegations seriously but were unaware of them as Cain had tried to rejoin the team as recently as April of this year. Here is Nike’s statement.

Article continues below player

“These are deeply troubling allegations which have not been raised by Mary or her parents before. Mary was seeking to rejoin the Oregon Project and Alberto’s team as recently as April of this year and had not raised these concerns as part of that process. We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes. At Nike we seek to always put the athlete at the center of everything we do, and these allegations are completely inconsistent with our values.”

Cain celebrating her 4:04.62 American junior 1500 record with Salazar in 2013
*More 2013 Oxy Photos

Cain, on Twitter, confirmed that she did try to rejoin the Oregon Project earlier this year and that, regardless of his former behavior, she still “loved” Salazar and craved his approval.

“As recently as this summer, I still thought: ‘maybe if I rejoin the team, it’ll go back to how it was.’ But we all come to face our demons in some way. For me, that was seeing my old team this last spring.

“I wanted closure, wanted an apology for never helping me when I was cutting, and in my own, sad, never-fully healed heart, wanted Alberto to still take me back. I still loved him. Because when we let people emotionally break us, we crave more than anything their very approval.

“So when he opened up about his struggles… I felt maybe we were going somewhere. I was cognizant that he pushed my own story of depression and my attempts to purge aside, but I thought his opening up could be a first step. But it wasn’t.

“We quickly fell out of touch this summer, and that made the rose color glasses finally fall off. He didn’t care about me as a person; only as the product, the performer, the athlete. Then, after the USADA report dropped, I felt this quick and sudden sense of release.

“No more wanting them to like me. No more needing their approval. I could finally look at the facts, read others stories, and face: THIS SYSTEM WAS NOT OK. I stand before you today because I am strong enough, wise enough, and brave enough. Please stand with me.”

Three former NOP members shared their stories of Salazar criticizing women for their weight. Former NOP member and Canadian Olympian Cam Levins backed Cain’s allegations that Salazar was very much focused on her weight as he issued an apology on Twitter to Cain, writing,

I can’t find any pictures of @runmarycain and me together, but this is how I will always remember her-constantly being a supportive teammate, while fighting her own battles. You deserve an apology for not having a person who was looking out for you in the right ways during your time in Portland at the Oregon Project, and I wish I had been that person.

“I knew that our coaching staff was obsessed with your weight loss, emphasizing it as if it were the single thing standing in the way of great performances. I knew because they spoke of it openly among other athletes. You may not get the apology from those you should, but I am sorry as your teammate for what happened. I understand both the arbitrary number goal placed on you and constant push to lose weight. I promise to be part of the culture change you are progressing by sharing your story.”

Olympian Amy Yoder Begley, now a coach for the Atlanta Track Club, who didn’t overlap with Cain at the NOP, tweeted that she was kicked out of the NOP after placing 6th at the 2011 USATF championships with Salazar telling her she was too fat and “had the biggest butt on the starting line.” Former NOP assistant coach Steve Magness confirmed to in a text message exchange that Begley’s comments were an accurate description of what occurred, writing “Alberto and I would get in arguments over some of his crazy weight stuff. It’s one of the reasons I got out of there. We got in a big argument over weight after World Indoors and then again at Oxy in 2012. The meeting where Alberto let go of Amy happened because Alberto told her that her ass was hanging out of her uniform at USA’s and he could no longer coach her because of her weight. It’s just like the testosterone stuff — he was obsessed with that — and Alberto was absolutely obsessed with weight. Look at the supplement [Shannon] Rowbury was shown to be on from that leaked Fancy Bear report… She was on freaking shadyweight loss supplements, like ‘Lipo-flush’ or something (like that).”

We then asked Magness if he ever witnessed a public weigh-in as described by Cain. “I didn’t witness any public weigh-ins. Alberto would just tell athlete they were too big, that they had gained five pounds or whatever in front of everyone back then.”

Former NOP member Adam Goucher tweeted that after his wife Kara placed 5th in the 2011 Boston Marathon in 2:24:52, just over six months after giving birth (205 days later to be exact), Salazar and NOP sports psychologist Darren Treasure went up to Kara’s mother and sister and said, “Don’t tell Kara, but she is still too heavy. She needs to lose her baby weight if she wants to be fast again.”

Goucher’s 2:24:52 time was, and remains, her personal best in the marathon.

Longtime Nike pro Shalane Flanagan, who was never was part of the NOP, also supported Cain on Twitter, writing on Thurday, “I had no idea it was this bad. I’m so sorry @runmarycain that I never reached out to you when I saw you struggling. I made excuses to myself as to why I should mind my own business. We let you down. I will never turn my head again.”

As this article was nearing publication, The Oregonian‘s Ken Goe published a piece with lengthy quotes from Salazar himself, denying Cain’s allegations. Salazar wrote:

“Mary’s father is a medical doctor, and both of her parents were deeply involved in her training, competition and health throughout the period she was coached by me. For example, Mary’s father consulted on medications and supplements Mary used during her time at the NOP. Neither of her parents, nor Mary, raised any of the issues that she now suggests occurred while I was coaching her. To be clear, I never encouraged her, or worse yet, shamed her, to maintain an unhealthy weight.”

Salazar also wrote that, “Mary at times struggled to find and maintain her ideal performance and training weight,” and said that when that occured her referred Cainto  female physician who “would have been responsible for prescribing Mary with any medication, including birth control pills. And of course, as I have said many times before, I have never given, encouraged or suggested that any of my athletes take any banned substance, ever.”

Goe concluded his piece with a text message that Salazar says Cain sent him in April of this year where Cain allegedly wrote, “Thanks again so much for a great trip — I’m excited to be working together again and I really want this. Haha got back to a chilly morning in NY and even skipped class just to prioritize training and recovery since that’s my No. 1.”

Below, you can see the tweets described earlier in this story.

Mary Cain

Amy Yoder-Begley

Adam Goucher

Cam Levins

Shalane Flanagan

Talk about this story on our messageboard.

*MB: Explosive New York Times article: Mary Cain breaks silence about NOP
*MB: Mary Tried to Rejoin NOP in April 2019

More: LRC Full Transcript of NY Times Video: Mary Cain Says She Was “Emotionally And Physically Abused By A System Designed By Alberto [Salazar] And Endorsed By Nike”