BEAVERTON, Or. (CBS NEWS) – Nike said it is investigating allegations by runner Mary Cain, who claimed in a New York Times article that she suffered mental distress and physical injuries while being trained by coach Alberto Salazar at the company’s now-disbanded Oregon Project.
Cain told the paper she broke five bones after being pressured by Salazar, who has been suspended for four years for multiple anti-doping rules violations, to lose weight. She also claimed to have had “suicidal thoughts” and to have cut herself during her time at the Nike Project because of what she describes as the abusive training regimen.
“We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes,” Nike said in an emailed statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “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.”
Nike also claimed in the statement that the “deeply troubling allegations” had not been raised previously by Cain or her parents.
“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,” Nike said.
In a tweet on Friday alluding to Salazar, Cain said she “wanted an apology for never helping me when I was cutting, and in my own said, never fully-healed heart, wanted Alberto to still take me back.”
The Nike Oregon Project was an elite training group aimed at grooming the best U.S. runners and raising the country’s prominence in long-distance running events around the world. Runners were brought to Beaverton, Oregon, where the company is based, to live and receive guidance from Salazar and other coaches.
The project began in 2001 after top Nike executive Tom Clarke said he was frustrated with how American runners had fared on the international stage in the 1990s. Nike abruptly shut down the project in October, which recruited top runners such as Galen Rupp and Kara Goucher, after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspended Salazar.
Cain’s New York Times op-ed prompted another former Oregon Project runner to share her experience. Amy Yoder, now a coach at the Atlanta Track Club, said Cain’s comments brought back “painful memories” from eight years ago.
“After placing 6th in the 10,000m at the 2011 USATF championships, I was kicked out of the Oregon Project,” Yoder tweeted. “I was told I was too fat and had the biggest butt on the starting line.”