Nike to investigate Mary Cain's abuse allegations about Oregon Project track team

Former elite runner Mary Cain claimed in a first-person New York Times op-ed this week that she suffered physical and mental abuse during her time with the Nike Oregon Project while it was being run by the now disgraced coach Alberto Salazar. On Friday, Nike announced that they have launched an "immediate investigation" into the matter, according to NPR.

"We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes," the company said.

The Oregon Project was recently shut down over separate accusations related to doping throughout the program. Salazar, starting last month, was banned four-years for "orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct."

After becoming the youngest American to qualify for the track and field world championships in 2013, Cain joined the project. In the New York Times video posted on Thursday, she explained why she joined and what happened while she was there.

"I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever. Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike."

Cain claims there was pressure to be "thinner and thinner and thinner" and that she would be called out publicly if the weight goals the staff made for her were not hit. She said the weight loss severely impacted her body to the point where she stopped menstruating. Cain noted that it affected her mental health as well. She said she started cutting herself and had suicidal thoughts while with Nike. 

She left the Oregon Project in 2015, two years after joining. In her accusations, Cain is hoping to have Nike held responsible for their actions, something she believes has not been done. She referred to the situation as "a systemic crisis" where "young girls' bodies are being ruined by an emotionally and physically abusive system."

According to the New York Times, Salazar denied Cain's accusations in an email. 

"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," the company said in their statement.

Nike has been criticized publicly for their treatment of female athletes -- specifically those who are pregnant -- in the past. The company announced in August that it would no longer put performance-related reductions to pregnant athletes for a 18 months.

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