After Mary Cain alleged physical and emotional abuse during her time working with coach Alberto Salazar at the Nike Oregon Project, Salazar and Nike released statements saying Cain had not raised such issues before and was even interested in returning earlier this year.
Cain responded, acknowledging that she had still believed she could improve her relationship with Salazar.
Nike stressed that Cain’s allegations were new and the company pledged to delve further into them.
“These are deeply troubling allegations which have not been raised by Mary or her parents before,” Nike said in a statement. “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.”
Salazar, in a statement to The Oregonian, said Cain’s father, a medical doctor, had been continually informed on Cain’s health regimens. He also reiterated his claim that, despite his four-year ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, he has never asked an athlete to take a banned substance.
Cain said she did indeed think she could find a way back to her old team and was in contact with Salazar. But contact between Cain and Salazar diminished, she said, and the USADA suspension of the coach helped her find her voice.
“No more wanting them to like me,” Cain said. “No more needing their approval. I could finally look at the facts, read others stories, and face: THIS SYSTEM WAS NOT OK.”
Last night, Cain described her growing willingness to share her story in an NBC Nightly News interview.
“I couldn’t have sat in front of a camera and told my story, and told it with power, before today,” she said.
Cain also spoke again with The New York Times, where she gave her initial statement, and described her conflicted emotions of “wanting to be free from him and wanting to go back to the way things used to be.”
Several athletes once associated with Nike and Salazar have either corroborated the treatment Cain described or said they experienced it themselves.
Some of the athletes speaking publicly on Cain’s behalf were also whistle-blowers who had spoken about Salazar and doping issues over the years, facing what they described as personal and professional setbacks as a result of their testimony.
Salazar has pledged to appeal his suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The case is not yet on the organization’s list of upcoming hearings.
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