Today, the New York Times posted a video that has shaken the running world.
In it, Mary Cain, once a child prodigy on the track, stares straight into the camera’s lens, and describes why her career suddenly imploded, and why she left the Nike Oregon Project.
If you have not yet watched this video, please take a moment to do so now. It’s important:
What Cain experienced under her coach, Alberto Salazar, is arguably more unconscionable than the doping infractions that have ruined his career. Body shaming an athlete in front of her peers, forcing birth control and diuretics on her in order to hit an arbitrary weight, and ignoring her pleas for emotional support when she was inflicting self-harm are abuse, full stop.
For years, Salazar was seen as a murky figure—a mage-like figure willing to bend all the rules just shy of their breaking point in order to win. He had a great deal of success. He swept Cain up into his elite squad, and she seemed unbeatable. Until, of course, she suddenly became very beatable. Something was clearly wrong with Cain, and now we know the truth. Salazar is no wizard; he’s a bully. He didn’t obtain results because he leveraged the advanced technologies at his disposal at Nike, or because he was able to headhunt special talents like Cain, Galen Rupp or Jordan Hasay. His athletes had sporadic successes because their coach was willing to sacrifice everything from their future health to their future in the sport in order to see short-term results. That’s disgusting.
It took a great deal of bravery for Cain to come forward, particularly in the manner she did: pointedly and unflinchingly, staring directly at all of us, addressing an issue that she knows effects many women and girls in our sport. Cain describes it as:
“A systemic crisis in women’s sports, and at Nike, in which young girls’ bodies are being ruined by an emotionally and physically abusive system.”
She also knows that this goes far beyond Salazar and the Oregon Project. Cain has come to realize that what she experienced is, sadly, commonplace in track. Hopefully, her decision to go public with her experience will inspire others to speak out, and will also challenge men in positions of power over young women and girls that it’s incumbent upon them to be sensitive to the long-term health and wellness of their female athletes, above merely seeing an athlete as a means to an end.
After watching Cain’s video, the very first person I thought of was Jordan Hasay.
“I wanted to tell him exactly what I did and how well it went, and I couldn’t. I just miss him as a friend, calling me up randomly.”
-Jordan Hasay on not being able to call her suspended coach, Alberto Salazar
Along with Galen Rupp (who is someone we should also hear from), Hasay clearly had a special coach-athlete relationship with Salazar. As the female athlete closest to Salazar over the past six years, she more than anyone else could provide a clear picture of how Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project treated women in their system.
Hasay’s relationship with Salazar began immediately after college, when she signed with the Nike Oregon Project, right around when Cain, still in high school, also came under Salazar’s wing. Coincidently, this is also when Hasay first went on Instagram (her first post was of the Cathedral of the Christ the Saviour in Moscow, where she was competing in her first World Championships, after Salazar guided her to a qualifying time in the 10,000m).
Hasay is not a prolific social media user. She hasn’t updated her accounts since she dropped out of the Chicago Marathon, and has not used any platform to clarify her experience at the Oregon Project, beyond an aseptic vantage point into her training and racing experiences. Her Twitter bio still indicates that she’s a member of the Nike Oregon Project (a group that no longer actually exists—Nike shut it down in October). Of the 698 posts on her IG, six of them feature Salazar, five photographs and one video, where the coach can be heard counting off splits as he appears in momentarily in the background. Six total posts is surprisingly few considering the impact he has had on her career, and the special relationship they clearly shared. Perhaps she (or someone else) audited her account, bleaching it of any of the more embarrassing posts she may have made about her coach. We will never know, unless someone had the foresight to keep tabs on her posts in advance of this nightmare. Knowing how uncritical the running media is, that’s doubtful. In the running world, positivity supplants even the truth.
Hasay has addressed her coach’s suspension, in a softball piece teed up by Runner’s World, leading up to the Chicago Marathon. The author afforded her the opportunity to carefully choose her words, and eased into the doping conversation. Of course, Hasay distanced herself from Salazar:
At this point in her career, she said, she feels she knows what to do for workouts; she doesn’t need someone telling her how many miles to run. She spends the majority of her time at home in California, where she grew up, instead of in Portland, Oregon, where the NOP is based.
There’s a sense in the story that Hasay is merely an innocent bystander—or, perhaps collateral damage. That may not be wrong, but we need to hear the truth from her. What we got in the Runner’s World story was careful, defensive and did not address any of the revelations Cain shared today.
In between the innocuous mandatory sponsor shout-outs and professionally shot running selfies, Hasay’s Instagram carries hints and echos from the past. Hasay’s photos were less polished, perhaps mostly taken by athlete herself. It was a more intimate view of the athlete’s life, surely a more simple, hopeful time. If you scroll back to the winter of 2015, you encounter a series of photographs of Hasay with Mary Cain: training together on that idyllic tree-lined track on the Nike Campus in Portland, and competing against each other at the Millrose Games in New York. That day, Cain had a poor finish, and famously attributed it to “growing pains.” It will now be seen very differently, as the first outward signs of what she describes to us in that video.
Hasay owes it to that teenager with whom she trained and mentored to speak out now, to clarify what she knew and saw—what she herself experienced training with Salazar. Jordan Hasay needs to now take Mary Cain’s lead and stop being a marketing tool—a carefully managed series of interviews, performances and social posts—and start being a real person. We need to hear the truth from people like Jordan Hasay, so that real change can begin.