Mary Cain filed a lawsuit in Oregon on Monday against the sportswear company and Alberto Salazar, who ran the Nike Oregon Project until he was suspended for doping and the program was shut down.
Beginning in 2012, Cain participated in the Nike Headquarters program, designed to improve the fortunes of American long-distance runners in international competitions.
She was 16 when she informally joined the team. The following year, she accepted a sponsorship deal with Nike as a professional runner for the Nike Oregon Project.
The lawsuit claims that as head coach Salazar “acted with the knowledge that severe emotional distress was certain or virtually certain to result from his conduct.”
In particular, the complaint states that “Salazar told her that she was too fat and that her breasts and buttocks were too big”.
Cain’s attorneys also allege that “Salazar and other Nike employees often made sexist and objectifying comments about female athletes, focusing on their appearance and weight, when they did not make comments similar to or concerning male athletes “.
Cain says in the lawsuit that she was put on a diet that left her so hungry that she secretly stole food from her teammates that she ate in the bathroom.
The complaint states that Salazar publicly berated her over her weight even after winning the World Junior 3,000-meter Championship in 2014, a first for an American, according to the costume.
The lawsuit also states that Salazar knew Cain was developing an eating disorder and had deliberately cut himself, but he would have done nothing and ridiculed Cain for having panic attacks.
Cain’s complaints about the Nike Oregon Project first became public in 2019 when she shared her story in a seven-minute opinion piece video with The New York Times.
At the time, Nike told CNN it was opening an investigation into the allegations and said, “These are deeply troubling allegations that have never been raised by Mary or her parents before.”
The New York Times also reported that he had received an email from Salazar denying many of Cain’s claims and saying “he had supported his health and well-being.”
The project was closed later that year after Salazar was banned for four years over allegations of doping violations by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Salazar appealed the ban, which he lost last month.
In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, Nike responded, “We do not comment on pending litigation. Nike is committed to positively affecting the future of sport for women and girls and we are doing more than ever in this space. “
Messages sent to Salazar requesting comment were not returned to CNN on Wednesday.
Salazar, who was born in Cuba, enjoyed a distinguished career in athletics, winning the New York Marathon for three consecutive years between 1980 and 1982. In 1982, he finished second at the world cross country championships.
He also once held US track records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.