Salazar makes part-apology for ‘insensitive’ comments to female athletes

Mary Cain and other female athletes were pressurised about their weight

Mary Cain, the youngest American track and field athlete to make a World Championships team, describes conditions at the Nike Oregon Project and the treatment she received from disgraced coach Alberto Salazar. Video: The New York Times

Alberto Salazar has issued a part-apology for any "callous or insensitive" comments that he made to former teen prodigy Mary Cain and the other female Nike Oregon Project athletes he coached about their weight.

Cain, who joined Salazar as a 16 year old, made global headlines last week when she said she had suffered “emotional and physical abuse” because of his constant demands for her to get her weight down to 8st 2lb. The American said she had stopped menstruating for three years, broke five bones due to osteoporosis, and began to feel suicidal as a result.

When Cain went public, other former Oregon Project runners – including Amy Yoder Begley, Kara Goucher, and Jackie Areson – came to her defence and also criticised Salazar's training methods.

Begley, who competed for the US team in 2008, said she had kicked off Oregon Project in 2011 after being told she was “too fat” and “had the biggest butt on the starting line”. Goucher claimed that Salazar had said she was “too heavy” and “needs to lose her baby weight if she wants to be fast again” despite her running 2:24 in the Boston Marathon six months after giving birth to her son.


Meanwhile, Areson said Salazar not only told her she was fat but also “constantly questioned why and if I was on my period, despite making the 3,000m final at the 2012 world indoor champs”.

Nike will launch an investigation into those claims and Salazar has finally acknowledged for the first time that he may have gone too far. However, he insisted that his focus on weight was intended to help his athletes’ maximise their performances.

“On occasion, I may have made comments that were callous or insensitive over the course of years of helping my athletes through hard training,” he told the Oregonian. “If any athlete was hurt by any comments that I have made, such an effect was entirely unintended, and I am sorry.

However, Salazar justified his methods by saying that at the elite level it was vital for both men and women to understand the impact weight has on performance. “That’s part of elite sport,” he added. “Maybe that needs to change. Indeed, I have always treated men and women similarly in this regard, to treat my female athletes differently I believe would not be in their personal interests or in the interests of promoting their best athletic performance.”

Salazar, who is appealing a four-year ban for breaking anti-doping rules, insisted that he provided his athletes with resources such as “dietitians, nutritionists and others, to help them achieve or maintain any training weight or performance weight in a healthy and appropriate manner”.

- Guardian