Middle-distance runner Mary Cain alleges that she suffered physical and mental abuse when taking part in the Nike Oregon Project sponsored by the sportswear giant.
Cain joined the training project as a promising 17-year-old athlete, but instead of training, she says she faced ridicule, weight-shaming, and abuse, ESPN reports.
The now 23-year-old says that she and her fellow athletes were pressured to become “thinner and thinner and thinner” as members of Nike’s now defunct Oregon Project. She adds that she was publicly shamed in front of the other athletes for not losing enough weight.
“I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever,” Cain said in a video published Thursday. “Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike.”
Cain added that the sportswear maker had not done enough to address “a systemic crisis” in which “young girls’ bodies are being ruined by an emotionally and physically abusive system.”
Cain also says she suffered physical problems during the training. She said her menstruation stopped, and she broke five bones during the training. Cain left the program in 2015.
Nike responded to the allegations by promising to launch an investigation.
“We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes,” Nike said in a statement. “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 Oregon Project was headed by coach Alberto Salazar who was handed a four-year ban starting this September for trafficking in testosterone. Nike finally shut down the Oregon Project in October.
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