Mary Cain and Alberto Salazar: Compassion is Required

I’ve written strongly in defense of Alberto Salazar. I am moved by Mary Cain’s revelations about her time at Nike: how Alberto relentlessly urged her to lose weight so that she could run faster; how he weighed her in front of her teammates and shamed her when she didn’t reach the goals he had set; how she suffered broken bones and mental and emotional distress throughout her time with the Nike Oregon Project.

Will I now modify my defense of Salazar?

Yes, of course. That is, my view of his behavior has changed, provisionally. I’ve been a writer too long (49 years) to make final judgments until all the data are in and all parties heard from.

But I’ve also, for 53 years, followed a spiritual path whose central precepts include kindness and compassion — not excepting the need to extend understanding and forgiveness to everyone however egregious or abhorrent their faults may appear to human eyes.

The purpose of life, to my way of understanding, is that we are all seeking greater happiness and freedom from suffering, and we are in this world to learn by our own experiences which actions and attitudes bring us those gifts. Moreover, it’s absolutely expected, in fact essential, that we make mistakes without which we wouldn’t learn. Mistakes, in the spiritual life, are seen as necessary steps to happiness and freedom. Thus we have no right to judge others for their errors.

That’s why I continue to affirm my friendship toward Alberto Salazar. He may very well have made mistakes as a coach at NOP — possibly very serious errors of judgment. But I absolutely refuse to presume that God has given me the responsibility to shame, judge, or to correct him. Vengeance is God’s, not ours.