Olympics track star Sanya Richards-Ross had an abortion just before competing in 2008 Olympics

Fourth-Place Medal
Sanya Richards congratulates <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1218214/" data-ylk="slk:Christine Ohuruogu">Christine Ohuruogu</a>, who won the Women’s 400m Final at the 2008 Summer Olympics. (Getty)
Sanya Richards congratulates Christine Ohuruogu, who won the Women’s 400m Final at the 2008 Summer Olympics. (Getty)

In February, five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross excitedly announced in People Magazine that she and former NFL cornerback Aaron Ross were expecting a child. But her new memoir released Tuesday revealed that February was not the first time Ross was pregnant.

Ross explained in her memoir “Chasing Grace: What The Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life” that in 2008, right before the Olympics, she chose to have an abortion. She was engaged to now-husband Ross at the time, but the pregnancy was unplanned and unexpected. Richards-Ross, who was favored to win a gold medal in the 400-meter race at the Olympics, discussed the pregnancy with her fiancé briefly before deciding to have an abortion and compete in the Olympics.

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“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” she wrote in her book. “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 doctors advised that Richards-Ross avoid exercising for two weeks after the abortion, but instead, she flew to Beijing to compete in the Olympic Games. The abortion caused her to lose confidence in herself, she wrote, and she cramped during the 400, finishing third. Ross later won the 4×400 relay with her teammates and became a world champion in the 400m one year later.

Ross said she previously had told “half-truths” about her 400m race in 2008, saying that “she felt a cramp in [her] hamstring” and “didn’t get much sleep” – true statements, but statements that did not reflect the entire story.

Chasing Grace, however, includes the full story of Ross’ decision, the conversations that she had with her husband before and after the Olympics and how the abortion influenced her life following the Beijing Games.

“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,” she wrote.

Ross said she decided to write the book as a way to “share the toughest moment in [her] life where [she] felt close to God’s grace the most.” She said she strives to “be the best version of [herself],” and doing so meant she needed to be honest about her struggles and her pain.

“I look forward to having more discussions about it and helping young women heal from it,” she wrote.

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