Athlete Mary Cain: "I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike"

Originally published at:


It’s the difference between being healthy/fit and being skinny. Physicians and mature athletes can make that distinction, but marketers and advertisers can’t.


Because only dangerously thin women can sell shoes to other women.


Damn, that is F’d up.


I can’t say that I am all that surprised that Nike uses their athletes as a marketing tool. But when you bring Alberto Salazar into the picture, then I get upset. I used to be a long distance runner and Salazar is a God in the running community. Salazar needs to leave Nike.


He needs to leave Nike in disgrace, a “God” no longer.


There is some value in slimming down for races (“Race Weight”). But you have to be very careful with diet to make sure you’re not losing muscle mass.

Or you get slower. Duh.

Coach should be fired.


Note to skimmers: of the two pieces-- the video and the text-- the video is the more powerful.


Dang, those print ads are some straight-up Hunger Games-looking shit.

(Not even trying for the pun!)


Well… he’s been suspended for four years for doping-related violations. It’s been known for years that Salazar has pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable in terms of chemically-enhancing his athletes. In Cain’s case, the birth control pills and diuretics he pushed her to take caused her not to have her period for years, which messed up her estrogen levels, which caused her bones to become brittle. With other athletes (male and female), he’s pushed them to take asthma, thyroid, and who knows what other medications (for conditions they did not have) for some minute athletic benefit, without consideration for the athlete’s longterm health.

And this has all been know for years - every time Galen Rupp or another of his athletes performed well, the assumption was always that they were dirty.


Sure they can. They want “model” thin and even when they are shilling for a sportswear company they just don’t CARE whether that is healthy or not. This pisses me off and I’m an unathletic guy. I can’t imagine how pissed off I would be by this if I was a competitive female athelete.


Nike is an institution filled with hate and ugly corporate christian frat boy brutality. Just in Oregon alone, Phil Knight has given over $1 million to the Republican machine. Nike festers from the top down and from the inside out.


I’m not buying the “Nike wants its athletes to be skinny to sell shoes!” angle in this case. Salazar was/is a psychopath with his athletes, but he there to squeeze the last little bit of performance out of his athletes (regardless of cost). Nike sells a lot of shoes based on (real or perceived) performance, and the Nike Oregon Project was an extension of that.


Mary Cain is a courageous & brilliant young woman. Sure, an Olympic win would have been great. But drawing worldwide attention to these abusive practices which destroy young lives – that is a greater win. Boycott Nike. Ban Salazar from coaching anyone, ever…not just the four-year ban that he got.


How do you explain his behavior, then, with regards to Nike’s buy in? Is he so ignorant of athletics and the realities of the human body that he is unaware that unhealthy body weight is going to hinder, not help, an athlete do her best? Why else focus on weightloss in a young woman, ignoring all the actual science about what a body needs to be an athlete?

And Nike is like any other corporation in the modern economy - they are not just focused on the real or perceived performance of the shoe, but on marketing so they can sell you a deeply overpriced shoe that you don’t actually need to do well at athletics. They do that with perceptions of performance by linking their products to famous athletes, but they appeal to sex just as any other company does… Sure this is celebrating Serena William’s athleticism, but also her physical body…

they have ads like this with men, too:

Something can be both aimed at one’s desire to excel at sports and at sexualizing the athletes they get to be a part of the their ad campaigns. It’s not one or the other.

Either way, this guy was horrendously abuse to this young lady, it sounds like, and I hope he never works with young adults in this capacity again. I also hope that Cain’s story helps to protect other young people from this kind of abuse.

[ETA] I would argue that, generally speaking, it’s probably not optimal for for-profit corporations to have so much sway over athletics in the US, and are a major part of the problem with these kinds of abuses happening. It’s part of the system that regularly allows for athletes to be abused in this or some other way.


This isn’t about the runner being model thin. It’s about psychopaths being given god power over the lives of other people. Watch the video, hear Mary Cain describe Salazar’s indifference to her confession of self-harm. Nike benefited from the Oregon Project’s treatment of atheletes as livestock, but the issue is that the Project leadership exhibited callous disregard for the life and welfare of their athletes.


No sports nutritionalists (so no one to scientifically guide the process of determining optimal body mass to output), and no support for athletes emotionally (despite an endless stream of olympians pointing out that winning is as much a mental game as a physical one).

So are you instead saying Nike hired someone completely unfit (negligently so) to run the program, offered no true oversight, and at the same time didn’t care what it’s athletes looked like?

I find that possibly compelling as an argument, because it suggests Nike was disinterested, uninvolved, had no real intention of producing good athletes, and also didn’t care about it’s marketing at all or how these athletes would look. It just wanted to pay out some budgeted amount for a “sports program” and abandoned all oversight afterwards.

That level of incompetence for a single multi-billion-dollar project within Nike actually rings true for me.


Reading the article induces enough rage. Not sure I need to watch the video.


it’s her words.

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I think that how he abused her matters, though. The fact that he had her on diet pills is telling.