Two weeks before the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games, Sanya Richards-Ross had an abortion. She wrote in her just-released memoir, Chasing Grace, that after spending a lifetime training for that moment in her life and with thoughts of the potential shame of having a child out of wedlock bouncing around her head, “it seemed like no choice at all” to undergo the abortion.
But Richards-Ross, who won a gold medal that year in the 4×400 meter relay and later struck gold in the 400-meter race in 2012, says she isn’t alone. In fact, she recently told Sports Illustrated that abortions are more common in track and field than you might think.
“The truth is that it’s an issue that’s not really talked about in the sport,” Richards-Ross said. “A lot of young woman have experienced this. I literally don’t know anther female track and field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion. And that’s sad.”
Part of the reason she revealed her abortion, Richards-Ross said, is because she wanted to help other young women who might be in a similar situation. Especially if a young woman isn’t comfortable talking to her mother or female relatives about these kind of scenarios.
“A lot of the information you get is from your peers,” said Richards-Ross, who’s now 32 years old and pregnant. “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. As an athlete, you want to stay as fit and healthy as possible.”
Richards-Ross also said there’s plenty of misinformation in her community, because some elite athletes think they can’t get pregnant because their menstrual cycles are shorter or nonexistent. But even more than the physical toll she underwent to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Games—after her abortion, Richards-Ross ignored doctor’s orders not to run for 14 days—she wanted to write about her mental well-being at the time.
“It was more for me about the spiritual and emotional part of the experience that I wanted to share,” Richards-Ross said. “It wasn’t until even I started this journey that I uncovered some of the hurt that was still there and trying to forgive myself. I knew that God had forgiven me for it, but really forgiving myself for this choice and really moving on. Now that I’m going to be a mother, I needed to purge myself of this and help others do the same.”
Richards-Ross is also sharing her happiness with her pregnancy and her new body on Instagram. As you can see below.
H/T the Cut