Former middle-distance runner Mary Cain has filed a $20m lawsuit against disgraced coach Alberto Salazar and Nike alleging she suffered years of emotional abuse.
Cain was considered a generational talent when she was in high school and qualified for the 2013 world championships as a 17-year-old. She was a part of the Nike Oregon Project and was coached by Salazar from the age of 16.
But in 2019 she told the New York Times that rather than nurturing her talent, Salazar’s behaviour led her to self-harm and to harbour thoughts of taking her own life. “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,” she told the newspaper.
The Oregonian reported that Cain, who is now 25, filed the lawsuit on Monday in Oregon’s Multnomah County. The lawsuit alleges that Salazar forced Cain to get on scales in front of other people and criticised her weight. “Salazar told her that she was too fat and that her breasts and bottom were too big,” the lawsuit alleges.
Cain also alleges Salazar controlled her food intake, forcing her to steal nutrition bars from other athletes. Kristen West McCall, a lawyer representing Cain, also claims Salazar stopped the runner from getting help from her own parents. “He prevented Cain from consulting with and relying on her parents, particularly her father, who is a doctor,” McCall told the Oregonian.
McCall added that Nike did nothing to prevent the alleged abuse. “Nike was letting Alberto weight-shame women, objectify their bodies, and ignore their health and wellbeing as part of its culture,” she said. “This was a systemic and pervasive issue. And they did it for their own gratification and profit.” Nike has not commented on the lawsuit. Salazar has previously denied many of Cain’s claims and said he had supported her health and welfare.
“I never encouraged her, or worse yet, shamed her, to maintain an unhealthy weight,” he told the Oregonian in 2019. Salazar was banned for doping offences in 2019, and in September the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a four-year ban on appeal.
In 2019, Salazar’s former assistant Steve Magness, who became a whistleblower, said he had witnessed the same behaviour at the Oregon Project. “At one point I was told I needed to make a female athlete lose weight,” he said. “When I showed data on her body fat being low already, I was told: ‘I don’t care what the science says I know what I see with my eyes. Her butt is too big.’
There was no adult in the room, looking after health and wellbeing. When the culture pushes to the extreme, this is what you get.” Salazar coached many top athletes during his career, including Britain’s four-time Olympic champion, Sir Mo Farah.
Two years removed from a feud with Nike and just days after qualifying for her fifth trip to the Olympics, track star Allyson Felix is adding the title of “entrepreneur” to her list of accomplishments.
Felix announced on Instagram on Wednesday that she is launching her own shoe brand called Saysh, a brand that she says “represents hope, acceptance, and the power to create change.”
“When you see me run, know that I’m not running for medals. I’m running for change. I’m running for greater equity for each of us. I’m running for women. More than anything, I’m running toward a future where no woman or girl is ever told to know her place,” Felix wrote on Instagram.
Felix, whose six Olympic gold medals are the most of any female track and field athlete, had public fallout with Nike, her longtime sponsor, back in 2019. She wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times that she wanted to start a family in 2018 knowing that it could jeopardize her deal with Nike as she was trying to renew a deal that had expired in December 2017. Felix wrote that she felt like she needed to return to form as quickly as possible, even after an emergency C-section in November 2018 to deliver her daughter, Camryn. Felix said Nike offered to pay her 70 percent less than what she had been earning before she was pregnant.
Felix did not re-sign with Nike after negotiations on a deal continued to go sour. Nike changed its maternity policies in 2019 as a result of public backlash and a congressional inquiry, according to the Washington Post. Felix later signed a deal with Gap’s Athleta brand, according to CNBC.
Since the split with Nike, Felix has become an activist for maternal protection for female athletes and for inequities for Black mothers in the health care system.
“No woman should have to choose between being a professional and being a Mother. Now, because of that fight, sponsorship contracts look different for a lot of athletes,” Felix wrote on Instagram.
She continued: “During my pregnancy, I had complications. And I realized I needed to use my voice to bring awareness to another injustice: a racial injustice in our healthcase system. I spoke to the United States Congress about my experience — and I continue to use my words for change.”
Saysh is a shoe brand designed “for and by women,” the website reads. The Saysh One sneaker is for sale at $150.
I know. I was stunned, too. Eliud Kipchoge did what? He ran the Berlin marathon in 2 hours 1 min 39 seconds? How is that even possible?
I mean in an athletics world where records tend to be broken by hundredths of a second, if at all – and occasionally a second or two for the longer distances – the Kenyan took 1 minute 18 seconds off the old mark.
The feat, of course, begs the question. Might it be possible, after all, for a human to run the marathon in under two hours? If so, the superbly configured Kipchoge – he appears to be mostly legs, topped by a massive set of heart and lungs, and an always grinning countenance – is humanity’s best hope to get there. If he can it would be a combination of the four-minute mile meets the moon landing – an iconic “impossible” record broken, if everything falls into place.
For it was Kipchoge who, in a promo for Nike last year, got close to the barrier in artificial conditions which included having runners subbing in and out of the race to pace him on a flat oval track and people on mopeds passing on high energy drinks. On that occasion, he did it in just 25 seconds over two hours.
“It is not rocket science to break this barrier,” he said at the time. “You simply have to believe in it. And you need a great team that believes in it and in you, the perfect shoes, and to be stronger than any runner before. Then everything is possible.”
(I know, I suspect that line owes more to the Nike marketing department than him, but can’t resist including it anyway, because of the rocket science/ moon landing angle and, more importantly, because it will give the vicious critics of Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign the absolute irrits – but that’s just a bonus!)
But could he get below two hours in a normal marathon? Dr Michael Joyner of Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic wrote a paper 27 years ago suggesting that it was theoretically possible for a man to run the marathon in one hour 58 minutes and so has taken huge interest in Kipchoge’s latest feat.
“[Breaking the two-hour barrier] is now a significant step closer,” Dr Joyner told The Guardian on Monday. “We might see something like a Tiger Woods effect – when he arrived on the golfing scene he was a quantum leap forward, yet eventually there was a catch-up.”
Exactly. For what it’s worth, this is the angle that particularly interests me.
See, about 64 years ago, our own John Landy was in Finland’s former capital of Turku, preparing for a race when a local asked him had he heard the news? “No. What news?” John replied. “Roger Bannister has broken the four-minute mile. He’s done three minutes 59.4 seconds.”
Landy was stunned. “I was amazed, really,” he told me when I interviewed him a couple of decades ago. “I just couldn’t quite believe that Bannister had managed to lop as much as two seconds off the record in just the one race … Back then the four-minute mile was almost like a barrier, a limit, which we thought exceedingly difficult to break. If the record of four minutes, one second was going to be lowered, we thought it would only go down by a 10th of a second or so at a time.”
But Bannister’s feat changed everything. “A lot of people seem to think I must have been devastated that Bannister had broken the four-minute barrier before me, but I wasn’t. I was just astonished that he’d lopped so much off the previous record, and I guess … because I thought I was just as good a runner as he was … it gave me a bit of a hurry-up to run a time like that myself, it made me think I really had better pull something out of the hat.”
At his next race, therefore, which was in Turku just a few weeks later, Landy ran like the wind, and when he crossed the tape, lots of excited Finnish officials and athletes were crowding around him, yelling, laughing, clapping him on the back. They kept saying something: Ricodda? Ricoad? Ricod?Record? Record. The world record to be precise. And the new … heavyweight champeen of the mile distance race … in a time of three minutes 57.9 seconds … John … LANDY. You get the drift.
Having thought only a few weeks earlier that the four-minute mile could only be approached a tenth of a second at a time, Landy had not only smashed the barrier himself but also taken nearly two seconds off Bannister’s time. He’d always been capable of it – it was just that the Bannister feat had liberated his mind, as to the possibilities. And it liberated other runners, too, with the four-minute mile soon being regularly broken by other runners who’d long thought it impossible.
Will we see the same with Kipchoge, and his fellow runners? The Kenyan has now demonstrated that it is possible to get at least close to that barrier. As he is 33 years old, our own Robert de Castella who himself held the record three decades ago at 2 hours, 8 minutes and 18 seconds says he’ll have to get the job done in the next couple of years. But surely, if not Kipchoge himself, then one of the next generation of runners will crack it …
On the day that it happens, it will surely be bitter-sweet. After all, with Everest now conquerable to even moderate mountaineers, and with the four-minute mile a mere good training run for the best athletes, the two-hour marathon is one of the last mythical sporting feats left standing. If it does go, what is left?
All I can think of is that one day, far in the future, the NRL might be able to get through Mad Monday without atrocities breaking out and … And you’re right. I take it back. That really is impossible.
Nike has done on an advert on double Olympic and triple world champion South Africa’s Caster Semenya to celebrate her success and address her testosterone controversy.
Nike has featured Semenya as part of its 30th anniversary of their famous slogan ‘Just Do It’.
Semenya’s “resilience” to attempts in the past to sideline her from women’s sport underpins her voice-over in the 45-seconds long advert posted on Monday.
Semenya is heard asking:
“Would it be easier for you if I wasn’t so fast?” she says.
“Would it be simpler if I stopped winning?
“Would you be more comfortable if I was less proud?
“Would you prefer if I hadn’t worked so hard, or just didn’t run?
“Or chose a different sport?
“Or stopped at my first steps?
“That’s too bad because I was born to do this.
For 30 years, the “Just Do It” mantra has been a motivational call for athletes worldwide, across all sports, and all levels of play.
Narrated by American football player Colin Kaepernick, “Dream Crazy” provides encouragement to everyone who has crazy dreams and goals that may seem challenging.
Nike says that they hope the series of films will show a “sense of persistence”.
In 2009, Semenya was subjected to sex testing and is currently appealing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the new International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules on testosterone levels in female athletes.
The rules, for between 400m and the mile, are scheduled to come into effect in November 1 and would require Semenya to take a tablet to lower her testosterone levels or look to compete against men.
In response to the ruling, Human Rights Watch published an open letter in which they said that this equates to discrimination against women with “differences of sex development”.
The IAAF has defended its stance, however, and insists they are creating a level playing field.
To celebrate that rich diversity, Nike has developed a series of “short films” in the JDI series.
“Dream Crazy,” focuses on a collection of stories that represent athletes who are household names and those who should be. The common denominator: All leverage the power of sport to move the world forward.
Along with inspirational pros — Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, LeBron James, Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr.,— in this film, you’ll meet incredible athletes who include 29-year-old basketball phenom and wheelchair athlete Megan Blunk, who took gold in Rio in 2016.
Others are Isaiah Bird, who was born without legs, and at 10 years old has become the one to beat on his wrestling team and Charlie Jabaley — an Ironman who made over his life by dropping 120 pounds, by being a vegetarian, and in the process, reversed the growth of a life-long brain tumor.
Michigander Alicia Woollcott, who simultaneously played linebacker and was named homecoming queen during her high school senior season has also been featured.
Additional appearances are made by emerging professional athletes and world champions alike: Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies; Hawaiian big wave surfer Kai Lenny, American skateboarders Lacey Baker and Nyjah Husto, German champion boxer Zeina Nassar and U.S. Soccer’s Women’s National Team.
When Sam Chelanga was growing up in the village of Kabarsel, just north of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, Paul Tergat would stop by the house as Chelanga tended to the animals on his family’s farm.
In a country known for its distance runners, Tergat is one of Kenya’s greatest ever — a two-time Olympic medalist, five-time world cross country champion, and former world record holder in the marathon. Tergat was a training partner of Chelanga’s brother, Joshua (a 2:07 marathoner), and treated Chelanga like a younger brother — he’d give him 1,000 shillings in pocket money, and in return Chelanga would ferry around the runners in Tergat’s group and drop off water on training runs in Tergat’s Toyota Land Cruiser.
“He would never let anyone [else] drive but he said, ‘Hey Sam, come drive my truck,’” Chelanga says.
Sometimes Tergat would ask Chelanga what he wanted to become when he grew up. Chelanga’s answer was always the same: a lawyer. Chelanga’s home village was poor and lacked reliable access to safe drinking water and hospitals. Chelanga hoped that a law degree would help him to deliver social justice.
But a law degree requires going to college, and college costs money. Tergat told Chelanga that there was another route to college: running. Reluctantly, Chelanga took up the sport, setting in motion a 13-year journey that included a decorated collegiate career at Liberty University and professional stops in Eugene, Ore., Hanover, N.H., Tucson, Ariz., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
On Thursday, one day after finishing 4th at the USATF 10k Championships at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Chelanga, 33, announced that he has retired from professional running in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. On July 29, he will report to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for basic training; once he completes that, it’s off to Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia, beginning October 15. Chelanga would like to specialize in military intelligence.
Even though Chelanga says he grew to love running, he was never motivated by medals or glory. As he went on to win four NCAA titles at Liberty and five U.S. titles on the roads as a pro (he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015), many things drove him: a college degree, helping his family and home village back in Kenya, representing the United States, supporting his wife, Marybeth, and their two sons, five-year-old Micah and one-year-old Noah. But he wasn’t the guy who went to bed every night dreaming about Olympic gold. When he and Marybeth started dating, Chelanga never spoke about running. When I ask him what his proudest accomplishment in running was, he tells me that it wasn’t a race, but instead the moment when he realized he was actually going to graduate with a college degree “because that is why I started running.”
Chelanga’s retirement announcement prompts several questions. The most obvious: why now? Chelanga, who has trained with Scott Simmons‘ American Distance Project in Colorado Springs since 2016, was the top American finisher at last year’s World Cross Country Championships, finishing in 11th place. This year, Chelanga ran a half marathon personal best of 60:37 in Houston in January, finished 14th at the World Half Marathon Championships in March (again, he was the top U.S. finisher), and won the U.S. 25K title in May. He has plenty left in the tank.
Which is precisely why Chelanga felt it was important to join the Army now.
“I’ve done everything that I wanted to do in running,” says Chelanga, who achieved personal bests of 13:04 in the 5,000m and 27:08 (still the collegiate record, set in a very famous race where Chris Solinsky ran 26:59 and Galen Rupp 27:10) in the 10,000m. “I’ve got more than I asked for when I came in…I don’t want to wait until I’m old or something. I feel young, I feel fresh, I feel like I have a lot of energy and I want to take this job when I’m going to serve at the best level of my ability.”
There’s also this fact: Chelanga no longer has an endorsement contract, as his Nike deal expired at the end of 2017 (Nike did offer to renew it, but Chelanga turned them down).
Chelanga, who considered joining the Kenyan Air Force as a teenager, has always been inspired by men in uniform. He was also born with a desire to serve, and that desire was not being met as a professional runner.
“I left running because I wanted to do something [where] every morning, I wake up and feel fulfilled,” Chelanga says.
Chelanga’s path to the Army is untraditional, especially when contrasted with the journeys of his training mates in Colorado Springs. Several of them, such as Shadrack Kipchirchir, Leonard Korir, and Paul Chelimo, joined the Army as a way to acquire U.S. citizenship and continue their running careers representing the United States. Chelanga had to wait five years to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and decided to join the Army three years later.
Chelanga says that former Army WCAP coach Dan Browne did try to recruit him to join the Army while he was in college, but Chelanga says he was told by a recruiter that he could only enlist if he was a U.S. citizen or was in possession of a green card. That was not actually the case — the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program under which Chelimo and others gained their citizenship was established in 2009 — but regardless, Chelanga signed a contract with Nike when he exhausted his eligibility in 2011 rather than attempt to enlist in the military.
Chelanga has not forgotten his home village back in Kenya. During his professional career, Chelanga sent water filters back to Kabarsel so that every family had access to clean drinking water. Recently, he heard about the death of a neighbor, who passed away at the same hospital where Chelanga’s father died and hopes that one day he may be able to help upgrade it.
“I’ve always wanted to do something about that hospital,” Chelanga says. “It’s the only hospital in my district and it’s not even good.”
But Chelanga has other priorities, too. He’s a grown man, a family man, and believes he must do right by the country that has given him so much.
“I got into running with the mindset that I was going to help my community back in Kenya,” Chelanga says. “But now I have two kids, and those kids are going to grow up in the United States. This is their new community, this is my new community…Leading young men and women for the United States in the Army, it’s the biggest honor I would have ever asked. Not that I underestimate that what running has done or can do, but I just feel in my heart that this is a calling for me.”