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The former track prodigy is suing Nike and his former coach Alberto Salazar for $ 20 million

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Mary Cain filed a lawsuit in Oregon Monday against the sportswear company and Alberto Salazar, who led the Nike Oregon Project until he was suspended for doping offenses and the the program was closed.

Beginning in 2012, Cain participated in the program at Nike’s headquarters, designed to improve the fortunes of American distance runners in international competitions.

He was 16 at the time he joined the team informally. The following year he accepted a membership contract with Nike as a professional runner for the Nike Oregon Project.

The lawsuit states that, as head coach, Salazar “acted knowing that his conduct was true or substantially true.

In particular, the complaint reads, “Salazar told her she was too fat and that her breasts and bottom were too big.”

Cain’s lawyers also allege that “Salazar and other Nike employees often made sexist and objective comments about female athletes, focusing on their appearance and weight, while not making similar comments about male athletes either.”

Cain tells the lawsuit that she was given a diet that left her so hungry that she secretly stole her teammates from eating in the bathroom.

The complaint says Salazar publicly denounced her for her weight even after winning the 3,000-meter junior world championship in 2014, the first for an American woman, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says Salazar was aware that Cain was developing an eating disorder and that he had deliberately cut himself off, but allegedly did nothing and ridiculed Cain for having panic attacks.

Cain’s complaints about the Nike Oregon Project were first made public in 2019 when he shared his story in a seven-minute video published with the New York Times.
At the time, Nike told CNN it was initiating an investigation to the complaints and said, “These are deeply worrying complaints that neither Maria nor her parents have raised 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 due to allegations of doping violations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Salazar appealed the ban, which lost last month.

In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, Nike responded: “We are not commenting on ongoing 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.”

Messages sent to Salazar to request comments were not returned to CNN on Wednesday.

Born in Cuba, Salazar enjoyed a distinguished athletic career, winning the New York City Marathon for three consecutive years between 1980-82. In 1982 he was second at the World Cross Country Championships.

He once had American records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

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