On November 7, in a New York Times story and video, former Nike Oregon Project athlete Mary Cain described a toxic culture of weight-shaming and emotional abuse by head coach Alberto Salazar, who on September 30 had been banned from the sport for doping violations. Until now, marathoner Jordan Hasay had not commented on the story, which sparked a storm of comment, though the two women were teammates at the NOP between 2013 and 2015. Yesterday Hasay announced she will be coached by former marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe, and today she broke her silence on Cain.
After the news of Salazar’s ban, Hasay said little, other than to say that he “treated (her) with nothing but respect, and the highest of ethical coaching standards.” Later she said she had never observed any kind of doping activity or been offered anything beyond the iron and vitamin D supplements and multivitamins she takes daily.
When Cain’s story came out, Hasay said nothing, until today. Here’s what she told Runners World:
“It’s so sad, everyone was trying their best, though,” she said. “I really think you can’t point fingers and it’s really easy from the outside to kick Alberto under the bus. People make mistakes. He could have handled it at times differently. He really was doing his best. He wasn’t trying to cause any of the problems that she described. I sympathize with both sides.
“That’s why it’s hard—I haven’t commented on it—I don’t really have a side. I didn’t experience what she experienced, but I can see how it was so difficult. I think that her message is a good one, addressing these issues, they are important, I think it’s good overall that we’re looking at some of things.”
Hasay goes on to say she didn’t think the program was a good match for an athlete as young as Cain (who was 16 when she joined the NOP), and that some of the other athletes had the confidence to push back against Salazar’s requests because they were older. She admits that Salazar was obsessed with athletes’ weight, but says he was obsessive about every aspect of their training, even suggesting that Hasay cut her hair to reduce drag, and (incredibly) that she wear a wetsuit to race the Boston Marathon.
Hasay claims Salazar even told her she didn’t have to stay so lean when she wasn’t racing, and that she should put some weight on. “It’s just every little detail is covered,” Hasay told Runners World, “and weight happens to be one of those things.”
In the wake of Salazar’s ban, which was followed by Nike shutting down the Oregon Project, the running world has been curious to see what decisions his former athletes would make about their coaching and future careers. Hasay, 28, announced on Instagram yesterday that Radcliffe will be her “coaching advisor,” and Hasay will train out of her hometown of Arroyo Grande, California. (Radcliffe’s husband, Gary Lough, coaches Hasay’s former teammate, Sir Mo Farah, who left the NOP in 2017.)
The athlete posted on Instagram: “I have always looked up to Paula as a pioneer for what is possible in the marathon, and most importantly in being a kind and inspiring person in life. I hope to follow in her footsteps as I continue my journey in the sport.”
Some observers expressed confusion over Hasay’s choice, because of Radcliffe’s much-publicized reaction to the Salazar ban, and about the term “coaching advisor.”
The Salazar ban came in the midst of this year’s World Championships in Doha, and less than two weeks before the Chicago Marathon, where both Hasay and teammate Galen Rupp DNF’d. Hasay was targetting Deena Kastor’s American record of 2:19:36 (set in 2006), but suffered a hamstring injury two miles in and did not record a split after 5K.
Some speculated that her DNF had more to do with the emotional fallout of losing her coach, but Runners World has reported that an MRI showed a serious hamstring tear that has nonetheless healed without surgery. Hasay confirms she will race the US Marathon Trials, to take place in Atlanta on February 29.
The race was won by Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, who smashed Radcliffe’s world record by more than a minute, finishing in a jaw-dropping 2:14:04. (Radcliffe had set the previous record at 2:15:25 at the 2003 London Marathon.)