In a new book, “Chasing Grace,” Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross revealed she had an abortion weeks before competing in the 2008 Bejing Olympic games. Engaged to her longtime boyfriend then, Richards-Ross was worried about what others would think if they found out about her unplanned pregnancy.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” she writes. “The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me. In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all. The debate of when life begins swirled through my head, and the veil of a child out of wedlock at the prime of my career seemed unbearable. What would my sponsors, my family, my church, and my fans think of me?”
The day after undergoing the abortion procedure, Richards-Ross flew to Bejing to compete in the Olympic games, but the abortion adversely affected her athletic performance, and her relay team got third place.
“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she writes. “Abortion would now forever be a part of my life. A scarlet letter I never thought I’d wear. I was a champion — and not just an ordinary one, but a world-class, record-breaking champion. From the heights of that reality I fell into a depth of despair.”
Richards-Ross went on to win a gold medal in the 400-meter dash in the 2012 summer Olympics. In an interview with Women’s Health, Richards-Ross said she’s speaking out about her abortion now because there’s a lot of misinformation about fertility and reproductive health in the athletic community.
“It’s going to sound silly to some people but, in our community, people don’t want to take the Pill because you put water weight on,” she said. “And then people tell you when you’re extremely fit, you can’t get pregnant because our [menstrual] cycles are shorter. So, there’s a lot of miseducation that happens to young women in college, because we’re educating ourselves.”
Richards-Ross told Sports Illustrated she doesn’t know any other female track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion, and it’s a topic that often goes undiscussed.
"I literally don't know another female track athlete who hasn't had an abortion." @SanyaRichiRoss shares her story in 'Catching Grace' pic.twitter.com/tMHfT8RP4W
— Maggie Gray (@MaggieGray) June 6, 2017
Richards-Ross and her husband are expecting another child, a boy, in August.