I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike | NYT Opinion


I was the fastest
girl in America. “Mary Cain!” “There are women here almost
twice her age” “being left in her wake.“ I set many national records. And I was a straight-A student. “C’mon, Mary Cain!” When I was 16, I got a call from
Alberto Salazar at Nike. He was the world’s most famous
track coach and he told me I was the most talented
athlete he’d ever seen. During my freshman year in college,
I moved out to train with him and his team full time at Nike world headquarters. It was a team of the fastest
athletes in the world. And it was a dream come true. 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. This is what happened to me. When I first arrived, an all-male Nike staff became convinced that in order for me to get better, I had to become thinner,
and thinner, and thinner. This Nike team was the
top running program in the country. And yet we had no certified
sports psychologist. There was no certified
nutritionist. It was really just
a bunch of people who were Alberto’s friends. So when I went to
anybody for help, they would always just
tell me the same thing. And that was to listen to Alberto. Alberto was constantly trying
to get me to lose weight. He created an arbitrary
number of 114 pounds, and he would usually weigh
me in front of my teammates and publicly shame me if
I wasn’t hitting weight. He wanted to give me
birth control pills and diuretics to lose weight— the latter of which isn’t
allowed in track and field. I ran terrible
during this time. It reached a point where
I was on the starting line and I’d lost the race before
I started, because in my head all I was thinking of was not
the time I was trying to hit but the number on the scale
I saw earlier that day. It would be naïve to not
acknowledge the fact that weight is
important in sports. Like boxers need to maintain
a certain weight, or you know everybody always
ends up citing the math about how
the thinner you are, the faster you’re going
to run because you have to carry less weight. But here’s a biology lesson
I learned the hard way. When young women are forced to
push themselves beyond what they’re capable at
their given age, they’re at risk for developing RED–S. Suddenly, you realize you’ve
lost your period for a couple months. And then a couple months
becomes a couple years. And in my case, it
was a total of three. And if you’re not
getting your period, you’re not going
to be able to have the necessary
levels of estrogen to maintain strong
bone health. And in my case, I broke
five different bones. The New York Times
Magazine published a story about how Alberto was
training me and nurturing my talent. We weren’t doing any of that. I felt so scared. I felt so alone. And I felt so
trapped. And I started to have suicidal thoughts. I started to cut myself. Some people saw
me cutting myself and … sorry. Nobody really did
anything or said anything. So in 2015, I ran this race, and I didn’t run super well. And afterwards, there
was a thunderstorm going on. Half the
track was under one tent. Alberto yelled at
me in front of everybody else at the meet,
and he told me that I’d clearly gained five
pounds before the race. It was also that night that I told
Alberto and our sports psych that I was cutting myself. And they pretty much told me
they just wanted to go to bed. And I think for me, that was
my kick in the head where I was like, “This
system is sick.” I think even for my parents
in certain ways, once I finally
vocalized to them, I mean, they were horrified. They bought me the first
plane ride home. And they were like,
”Get on that flight. Get the hell out of there.” I wasn’t even trying to
make the Olympics anymore. I was just trying to survive. So I made the painful choice and I quit the team. “After a multiyear investigation, the U.S. anti-doping
agency has banned Alberto Salazar from the
sport for four years.” “Nike will shut down
the Oregon project.” “Nike C.E.O. Mark
Parker stepping down from the company
in January of 2020.” Those reforms are
mostly a direct result of the doping scandal. They’re not
acknowledging the fact that there is 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. That’s what needs to change,
and here’s how we can do it. First, Nike needs to
change. In track and field, Nike is all powerful. They control the top
coaches, athletes, races, even the governing body. You can’t just fire a coach
and eliminate a program and pretend the
problem is solved. My worry is that
Nike is merely going to rebrand
the old program and put Alberto’s old
assistant coaches in charge. Secondly, we need
more women in power. Part of me wonders
if I had worked with more female psychologists,
nutritionists and even coaches where I’d be today. I got caught in a system
designed by and for men, which destroys the
bodies of young girls. Rather than force young
girls to fend for themselves, we have to protect them. I genuinely do have
hope for the sport. And I plan to be running
for many years to come. And so part of the
reason I’m doing this now is I want to end this chapter and I want to start a new one.

100 thoughts on “I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike | NYT Opinion

  • November 17, 2019 at 8:40 pm
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    Another chance to take pot shots at men. Way to go NYT! It's great what you've done to unite our country.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 8:46 pm
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    Thank you for your strength. God bless you.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 8:50 pm
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    Fantastic way of coming out

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  • November 17, 2019 at 8:54 pm
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    love and light beautiful soul

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:00 pm
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    Did the shoes help?

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:07 pm
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    What? Boys and Girls are different? I’m surprised NYT ran this story and acknowledged this haha

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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    Looks and money !

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:17 pm
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    im still gonna wear my af1s tho

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:34 pm
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    Now she can be the fastest to wash those dishes

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:40 pm
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    I thought this was gonna be about Nike allowing trans women to compete.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:51 pm
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    I am also female and I to had a bad coach that destroyed my confidence and left me with physical damage due to his abuse. A bad coach can destroy an athlete and tear them to peices. I support this girl and her all her endeavor. She is not wrong about a thing.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:54 pm
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    Boys be like whats a period

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  • November 17, 2019 at 9:55 pm
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    looks like I won’t be buying nikes for a while…

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:00 pm
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    no worries now they just let men win womens sports…

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:00 pm
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    Alberto Mussolini

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:02 pm
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    I though this was about nikes shoes

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:05 pm
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    WoW!!!! What an IMPORTANT and eloquent VIDEO!! Big thumbs up for you! Big thumbs down for that whole SICK system! Wow, jut wow!

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:12 pm
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    I read the title and I thought it said I was the Fattest girl in America 😂😂

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:18 pm
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    Wow pretty powerful stuff.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 10:37 pm
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    hum….lawsuit on the horizon…..

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:06 pm
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    Yes women need to be protected in all fields.Women are fighting a patriotic system where things still need to be put in place so women can thrive.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:12 pm
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    Very proud of you. Congratulations on becoming stronger! The past is in the past. You are wonderful and your future is glorious:)

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:14 pm
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    Mo Farrah always has a freaked out look on his face, maybe this is why?

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:27 pm
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    she looks really determined at first
    but what put me off is how she calls it
    NIKEY

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:32 pm
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    Shut up

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:34 pm
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    I love Nike

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:44 pm
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    Im a big consumer of NIKE and im thinking about not buying anything from nike anymore in the future after this video!!

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:45 pm
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    Just get a man who identifies as a woman to compete.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:45 pm
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    She missed her period for 3 YEARS and still kept running that’s crazy like if I miss my period for 3 days I get worried 😧 like what the heck

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:47 pm
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    She's not even fat, not near fat.

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  • November 17, 2019 at 11:52 pm
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    I gave this a thumbs up for her sharing, not for her getting in a bad spot.
    I want to give it a thumbs down for the bad spot she got in.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 12:05 am
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    Boycott Nike

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  • November 18, 2019 at 12:56 am
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    Another reason to hate Nike…

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:03 am
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    Hey guys while we can all agree that Alberto is a horrible man, don't let anyone take your rage and focus it on ALL men. That's exactly what news channels like NYT does with stories like this. They'll get you riled up about one person and then focus you on an entire group of people that just happen to have a similar trait or gender. Just keep that in mind.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:03 am
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    Now I'm ashamed to own and wear Nike.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:10 am
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    Salazar Serpeverde

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:11 am
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    I really applaud and look up to her for speaking out about this! It takes so much strength to overcome what she was put through but also expose this publicly (especially on a company as big as Nike).

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:23 am
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    I would be curious about the reasons for the dislikes of this video.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:23 am
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    Thank you for sharing your story. You deserved better than this.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:07 am
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    IDK I would like to hear both sides for sure. Coaches are known to push the athletes always, but people are becoming more sensitive and PC so I don't want to jump to any conclusions .

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:12 am
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    this really inspired me until it got to the bad part since I ran xc and planning to run track

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:22 am
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    I was the
    fastest boy in kundal until I joined mpl…

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:22 am
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    As a male blighted by muscle dysmorphia, sometimes called "bigorexia" or "reverse anorexia", an obsession with making one's body more massive or more muscular, thus often combining a doubly difficult quest to become both larger and yet leaner, I understand that many male athletes, too, have sustained such pressures and adversities as have the women covered in this New York Times report. Individuals experiencing muscle dysmorphia, in fact, have generally been males, often athletes or, as in my case as an adolescent and young adult, aspiring athletes.

    And in some sports, like cycling, males have been likewise—as the Times here tells us about Mary Cain and Gracie Gold—"caught in a system where she was compelled to become thinner and thinner". (See, e.g., Global Cycling Network, "Cycling's body weight obsession", 2 Dec 2018, https://youtu.be/7_2bybJWQFg .) Yet males, atop drawing virtually no support, also draw the stigma that their plight is feminine. Only in 2013, after some 30 years of hearing of females' weight woes from journalists and clinicians, and from female family and friends—who all ignored or even belittled my own weight woes—did I discover, but by mere chance, that muscle dysmorphia exists.

    Although the disorder has been listed in American psychiatry's diagnostic manual, the DSM, since 1994, I have never encountered a clinician, whether psychological or psychiatric, out of the several that I've seen since 2013, who even knew what the disorder is. Literally, despite all of them instantly knowing what anorexia nervosa is, I've had to explain to each of them, supposedly there to help me, what muscle dysmorphia is. To simplify my own task, then, I wrote the lead of the Wikipedia article "Muscle dysmorphia". And here I am, another five years onward, where the world's most esteemed newspaper is still fostering the stereotype that, in effect, weight pressures are a uniquely female plight.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:23 am
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    Men were far superior to women…

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:31 am
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    Everybody gangsta' till they join nike.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:39 am
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    I thought this was a title for an Onion video until I saw the uploader.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:54 am
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    Very understandable….you cannot run if you cannot stay off the toilet, not much you can do about that!

    👸🧻🚽🧻🧻🧻🧻

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:54 am
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    Eh they'll just replace her with a dude in a dress in the name of "progress"

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  • November 18, 2019 at 3:22 am
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    “Rather than forcing young girls to fend for themselves, we have to protect them”, doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for girl-power. Women can do anything a man can do. Women must be protected. Which is it?

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  • November 18, 2019 at 3:48 am
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    I’ve boycotted Nike some time ago when they started being political and supporting anti-American themes. This is just the icing on the cake. I had no idea.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 4:08 am
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    The two of the best runners we have in Peru just joined this program a couple of months ago. I'm scared for them now. I will give them the link to this video, I hope they'll see that.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 4:58 am
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    Nike really doesn't have a lot of money to spare on things like this. I mean, think about how many thousands of children they would have to lay off for one week of nutrition for this athlete. I think Colin Kaepernick should have stepped in and helped out. I mean, he is all about the justice, not the money. Right?

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:04 am
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    Maybe they’ll offer her the position that’ll soon be open. That would be good PR

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:11 am
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    did adidas make this?

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:12 am
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    So her parents were??? Too many get caught in the pomp and circumstance, I would have NEVER let her go by herself, no matter how great the opportunity, high school to pros sounds great for other sports, but more track athletes need that college transition

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:18 am
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    Just join another teama

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:21 am
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    I'm so horrified this happened but I'm so happy she was able to speak out about it

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:56 am
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    Too late Nike we are looking at you.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 6:14 am
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    She could’ve have a really good future in sports.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 6:42 am
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    This world is unkind and selfish. I pray you will find strength is the Lord.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 6:44 am
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    She is one beautiful girl. How could they do this to her? I just want to give her the biggest hug man.. this is just bizarre.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 7:05 am
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    It's all about the money. Just look at the working conditions if the people that make their shoes and other products in China. They get paid $1.00 an hour.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 7:08 am
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    I thought she was gonna say I became the fastest girl in the world but nvm

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  • November 18, 2019 at 7:13 am
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    Salazar is a DESPICABLE HUMAN BEING! He should go to jail!!!

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  • November 18, 2019 at 7:21 am
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    I thought this would be like,
    “tHeSe cHuNkY AiR mAx’S mAkE mE sLoW”
    “sUeD Bi-OtCh”

    Reply
  • November 18, 2019 at 8:11 am
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    I’m not hating but wheres the proof? All we say were birth control pills. Wouldn’t she show other stuff? This could be wishful thinking since I hope this is false for the girl and Nike

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  • November 18, 2019 at 9:20 am
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    Thanks for sharing your story Mary Cain! Wish you much health and love.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 9:21 am
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    I'm glad I grew up

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  • November 18, 2019 at 9:42 am
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    Always hated Nike for no reason. I was right, now I understand

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  • November 18, 2019 at 9:48 am
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    You and other girls/women have to help make the big 180 change! I am in! Show the who is the boss!

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  • November 18, 2019 at 9:51 am
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    Terrible, if there’s anything good to come from this young woman’s experience it’s that a light was shone on the ignorance of women’s needs and the systemic abuse of female athletes. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a corporation like Nike, your message will not be silenced.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    I will never buy Nike ever again!!!
    This story was enough.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 10:01 am
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    Corporatization of sports….when you see medals being won…..it looks so good…..when you see it more closely…..it's nasty

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  • November 18, 2019 at 10:12 am
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    It's actually kind of surprising to me that there weren't female coaches around. Is this commonplace in high level track at the college and olympic level?

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  • November 18, 2019 at 10:47 am
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    You, just hate men. Men treat men the same way! You were not the best! I went to the same thing! And I lost 40 pounds and got faster!.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 11:07 am
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    Her biggest threat aren't her coaches and Nike, though. Her biggest threat is male 'Trans' athletes infiltrating her sport.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 11:27 am
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    When you blame your failure. On other people

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  • November 18, 2019 at 11:53 am
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    Wow ! What!! I’m in shock I never knew about it that’s disgusting because they have money they think they can do everything:/

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  • November 18, 2019 at 12:27 pm
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    What did she told about that big magazine article about the program?? Nothing was true!? So 1. Salazar & co lied the whole time? 2. There was no insight from outside: no sports authorities, prob not Nike, and certainly not any knowleable journalist… A sheer sect behavior.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:25 pm
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    Oh so shes one of these girls

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:25 pm
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    Half of this proberably dident wvwn happen

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:25 pm
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    Priberly wants atention

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  • November 18, 2019 at 1:48 pm
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    Oh, ok. So if there were more “women-run” organizations this would NEVER happen, because women are NEVER corrupt.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:18 pm
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    U cant win if u aren't thin. Look at the Africans, they are literally skin on skeleton. Is winning healthy? Is being the most extreme athlete healthy? That's not the point. Winning is about doing everything more than the competition for an edge. If you aren't willing to push your body to the edge, then you need to talk to David Goggins. Man UP!

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:20 pm
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    Body breaking down? U mean like every extreme endurance athlete? It comes with the territory.

    Breaking down? Have you heard about David Goggins. That man's body broke down and he kept going and still is. Man UP!

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:22 pm
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    Liberal men destroy woman. Nothing new here. And I don't say that to minimize what she went through. I'm glad that long ago, I chose to not buy Nike products.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:47 pm
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    Lose weight?!
    Where is she supposed to lose it from? She started of as a skinny little thing.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:48 pm
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    wow, very sexist. what about young mens health?

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  • November 18, 2019 at 2:59 pm
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    my question would be why did she let herself not have her period for 3 years and not get any second opinion outside of Alberto's staff?

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  • November 18, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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    I'm so incredibly sorry for her.
    This is just awful

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  • November 18, 2019 at 3:25 pm
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    There is a cult of tyranny still alive and kicking inside sports coaching. Time to cut the dragon’s head finally.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 3:51 pm
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    Nike became trash they abuse worker with low salaries & poor quality products
    they will fall

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  • November 18, 2019 at 4:02 pm
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    you poor girl keep strong & live life the best you can

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  • November 18, 2019 at 4:02 pm
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    Let nike rot and burn

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  • November 18, 2019 at 4:21 pm
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    to whoever is reading this: you are loved. take care of yourself and stay hydrated

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  • November 18, 2019 at 4:55 pm
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    1 more reason for me to have such dislike for Nike. Disgusting. Who tf do they think they are??!

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:05 pm
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    I can't remember when I last bought Nike shoes. Try New Balance. They come in lots of different widths.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:12 pm
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    Nike is an anti-American lgbt controlled race baiting evil company.

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  • November 18, 2019 at 5:35 pm
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    if you want to lose weight.just cut the hair?

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