Distance runner Mary Cain is suing Nike and her ex-coach for $20 million, alleging she was emotionally abused for years and regularly humiliated about the size of her breasts and backside.
Cain — a 25-year-old New York native who joined Nike’s Oregon Project as a 16-year-old phenom in 2012 — filed the lawsuit against her former coach Alberto Salazar and the sports apparel giant Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the Oregonian reported.
The filing claims Salazar was obsessed with Cain’s weight and would compulsively monitor her food intake and force her to weigh herself in front of others.
“Salazar told her that she was too fat and that her breasts and bottom were too big,” the lawsuit alleges.
Cain also accused Salazar of causing her to get so famished that she stole energy bars from teammates.
The woman once dubbed the “fastest girl in America” turned to her parents for support, but Salazar then grew weary of the interference, Cain’s lawsuit claims.
“He prevented Cain from consulting with and relying on her parents, particularly her father, who is a doctor,” said Kristin West McCall, a Portland-based attorney representing the once-rising track star.
Cain, who became the youngest American at age 17 to make a World Championships team, detailed the alleged abuse in a 2019 gut-wrenching video for the New York Times.
“I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever,” Cain said. “Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike.”
Nike’s all-male staff was convinced that Cain needed to get “thinner and thinner and thinner,” she said.
Salazar wanted Cain to get down to 114 pounds, she said, and publicly shamed her if she didn’t make weight.
The pressure ultimately caused her to become depressed, develop an eating disorder and generalized anxiety, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. She also had suicidal thoughts and started cutting herself, she said in the video.
“And nobody really did anything or said anything,” an emotional Cain recalled.
Nike announced it was investigating Cain’s claims after her explosive video, which came one month after the company shut down its athletic training and track program known as the Oregon Project.
The program was disbanded after Salazar was banned from the sport for four years by the US Anti-Doping Agency for trafficking testosterone.
Cain alleges Nike knew about the alleged abuse by Salazar but didn’t step in.
“Nike was letting Alberto weight-shame women, objectify their bodies, and ignore their health and wellbeing as part of its culture,” McCall said. “This was a systemic and pervasive issue. And they did it for their own gratification and profit.”
A court upheld Salazar’s four-year ban from track and field last month, the Oregonian reported. He denied Cain’s allegations in a statement to the newspaper two years ago.
“Neither of her parents nor Mary raised any of the issues that she now suggests occurred while I was coaching her,” Salazar said at the time. “To be clear, I never encouraged her, or worse yet, shamed her, to maintain an unhealthy weight.”
Salazar claimed Cain “struggled to find and maintain” her ideal weight, while Nike claimed she requested to be allowed back on the team after she left in 2015, the Oregonian reported.
Salazar could not be reached for comment, according to the newspaper.
Nike, meanwhile, told The Post in a statement Wednesday that it does not comment on pending litigation.
“Nike is committed to positively affecting the future of sport for women and girls and we are doing more in this space than ever before,” the company said in a statement.