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Nike is investigating former distance runner Mary Cain's allegations of abuse

Nike is investigating allegations from former middle runner Mary Cain that she suffered physical and mental abuse as a member of the Nike Oregon project.

Cain joined the now closed Oregon project, run by coach Alberto Salazar in 2013 after becoming the youngest American to qualify for the track and field world championships, where she competed in the 1500-meter finals as a 17-year-old.

Cain, now 23, told The New York Times that she was pressured to become "thinner and thinner and thinner" when she was part of the Oregon project. She said she was publicly ashamed of her teammates if she didn't hit weight goals.

"I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever," Cain said in a video published Thursday. "Instead, I was abused emotionally and physically by a system designed by Alberto and approved by Nike."

Cain said she stopped menstruating and broke five legs while she was pressed to lose weight. She said she had thoughts of suicide and also began cutting herself. She finally left the Oregon Project in 201


"We take the allegations extremely seriously and will begin an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes," Nike said in a statement Thursday. "At Nike, we strive to always put the athlete at the center of everything we do, and these accusations are completely inconsistent with our values."

The New York Times said Salazar denied Cain's allegations in an email.

Salazar received a four-year ban in September for, among other things, violations, possession and trafficking of testosterone. Nike shut down the Oregon project last month.

Cain said that not enough has been done to hold Nike responsible for "a systemic crisis" where "young girls' bodies are destroyed by an emotionally and physically abusive system." [19659002] "That's what needs to change," she said.

Nike is also under pressure this year for its treatment of pregnant athletes. A number of female athletes, including six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, said Nike declined or would not guarantee a contract if an athlete became pregnant.

In August, Nike announced that it would no longer apply performance-related reductions to pregnant athletes for 18 months.

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