Atletes, parents, and fans should not ignore anything that seems off, from feeling creeped out to serious crimes.
By ELIZABETH CAREY
Elite runner Mary Cain recently spoke out in an opinion video and related article produced and published by The New York Times describing how she was “emotionally and physically abused” during her time training with the now-dissolved Nike Oregon Project under Alberto Salazar.
Her video and the ensuing commentary, including that from former Nike Oregon Project athletes, have sparked a conversation about what behaviors the sport of running tolerates and beg the question: What, exactly, should we do if we notice abusive behavior and what should happen when misconduct is reported? The answer can have grave consequences.
Abuse needn’t be physical—like hitting, pulling hair, or forcing someone to run through injury—to do real harm. Emotional abuse is also harmful and can lead to psychological trauma, anxiety, chronic depression, or eating disorders. “While emotional abuse doesn’t always violate the law, it certainly violates the SafeSport code, endangers an athlete’s safety and well-being, and should be reported,” writes Ju’Riese Colon, CEO of U.S. Center for SafeSport, a non-profit organization founded in 2017 to provide training and misconduct investigations for national governing bodies of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). Emotional abuse is especially important to pay attention to because it’s part of “grooming,” a way sexual abusers target victims.