Sanya Richards-Ross revealed she had an abortion the day before she flew to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics in her book, “Chasing Grace,” released Tuesday.
“It seemed like I had no choice at all,” wrote Richards-Ross, the 2008 Olympic 400m bronze medalist and 2012 Olympic 400m champion. “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?”
Richards-Ross also wrote, “most of the women I knew in my sport have had at least one abortion.” She added to Sports Illustrated during her media tour Tuesday, “I literally don’t know another female track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion.”
Richards-Ross, now retired, was engaged to then-NFL cornerback Aaron Ross at the time of her abortion in 2008. She told Ross over the phone that she was pregnant before the decision to have an abortion.
“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” Richards-Ross wrote. “Abortion would now forever be a part of my life. A scarlet letter I never thought I’d wear.”
They later were married and are now expecting a child. She is an NBC Sports track and field analyst after retiring following failing to make the Rio Olympic team.
Richards-Ross was the 400m favorite going into Beijing. She wrote that a doctor recommended she have “no activity” for two weeks following the abortion. That was an order she could not follow. She didn’t tell her coaches or her father.
“Winning was the only medicine I thought I needed,” she wrote.
In the 2008 Olympic 400m final, Richards-Ross led by more than five meters entering the last 100m straightaway.
But Richards-Ross was passed by Brit Christine Ohuruogu and Jamaican Shericka Williams. Richards-Ross tearfully took bronze, saying a hamstring injury slowed her at the 300m mark.
“I literally prayed about that [revealing the abortion] for almost two years because it is something that is really private, and a lot of women don’t talk about it,” Richards-Ross said on a podcast. “When I found out I was pregnant before the Olympics, it was the toughest time of my life. … It wasn’t an easy story to share. Even, I think about, oh my god, I wonder how people are going to receive it. But, ultimately, I did it to glorify God and to tell people that you can come back from any decision, no matter how hard it is to make.”
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