Runner Mary Cain says former Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar weight-shamed her and told her that her 'breasts and bottom were too big'

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Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women's special 1500 meter run at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mary Cain walks off the track after competing in the women's special 1500 meter run at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  • Runner Mary Cain filed a lawsuit against Nike and her former coach, Alberto Salazar, this week.

  • She says Salazar regularly weight shamed her, and said her "breasts and bottom were too big,"

  • She accused Salazar of emotionally abusing her while she was training at the Nike Oregon Project.

Runner Mary Cain says her former Nike Oregon Project coach, Alberto Salazar, weight-shamed her and told her that her "breasts and bottom were too big," according to a lawsuit filed earlier this week.

Cain filed a $20 million lawsuit against Salazar and Nike earlier this week, saying she experienced emotional abuse while with the now-shuttered elite training program, the Nike Oregon Project.

"Salazar regularly warned her not to gain too much weight and compared her to other female athletes," lawyers for Cain said in the lawsuit. "If they were too fat, he warned her not to get like that; and if they were optimally shaped, in his opinion, he would tell her to aim for that appearance."

Lawyers for Cain - who first started training with the Nike Oregon Project at 16 years old in 2012 - said Salazar "tightly controlled" Cain's food intake, weighed her in front of others, and set an "arbitrary" weight goal of 114 pounds.

Cain said she regularly worked out while injured and sick, failed to consume enough food for her training regimen, and at least once, tried to vomit to lose weight.

Along with accusing Salazar of emotional abuse, she has accused Nike of failing to intervene.

"As a result of Defendant Salazar's and Nike's negligence and fault as alleged above and herein, plaintiff has suffered severe emotional distress, loss of dignity, pride, and self-esteem, developed an eating disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder," the lawsuit said.

Cain, who first spoke out against Nike in an op-ed video published by the New York Times in 2019, is not the only runner to say Salazar criticized her weight and the size of her breasts and buttocks.

Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympic 10,000-meter runner, told The Oregonian in 2019 that Salazar shamed her in the same way.

"I don't have a problem with tough love," Goucher said at the time. "I don't have a problem with being accountable. But at some point, it crosses the line of what is acceptable. A coach should never discuss the size of your breasts or butt in front of other athletes. That's shaming."

Runner Amy Yoder Begley has also said she was criticized for weight - comments Salazar's former assistant, Steve Magness, confirmed to Sports Illustrated in 2019.

"I remember Salazar saying something like, 'Her ass was hanging out of her uniform'," Magness said at the time. "In that moment, he added, 'I'm done with you. I'm tired of fighting this weight issue. We're done.' Amy countered by saying she hadn't gained any weight. Alberto said he didn't care what her weight said, 'I know you've gotten bigger.' There was this conversation on if her jean sizes had gone up because her butt was bigger. It was the [most] bizarre thing ever."

Nike told Insider on Wednesday that it would not comment on Cain's lawsuit, citing 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," the company said.

Salazar, meanwhile, told Sports Illustrated in 2019 that he "may have made comments that were callous or insensitive" but denied abusing Cain or other athletes.

"If any athlete was hurt by any comments that I have made, such an effect was entirely unintended, and I am sorry," he said in a statement. "I do dispute, however, the notion that any athlete suffered any abuse or gender discrimination while running for the Oregon Project."

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