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Former Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross says she has helped other women by speaking publicly about having an abortion.
Richards-Ross, 32, revealed in her new book that she had a termination a day before leaving for Beijing 2008, where she won a gold and bronze medal.
She later claimed that every female athlete she knows has had an abortion but the issue is “not talked about”.
“There is a brokenness there,” the American told BBC Radio 5 live.
“For me, it was really healing to be able to share that with other friends.
“Now I’ve had other women reach out to me, not just in track and field but all over the world. They’ve said ‘your courage is helping me to heal myself’. That’s meant a whole lot to me.
“I feel bad because I think people misinterpreted when I said ‘everyone I know’. I don’t intimately know a lot of women in this sport.
“When I started to share my story I was like ‘wow’, so many women around me have been through the same thing and no matter how close you are, it’s something that people don’t share.”
‘Thanks for making it cool to wear make-up on the track’
Richards-Ross won three Olympic golds in the 4x400m relay for the USA, with her first and only individual gold coming in the 400m at London 2012.
She also claimed seven medals at the World Championships – including five golds – before retiring in 2016.
During her career, the Jamaican-American athlete became well-known for her style on the track – which included wearing make-up and nail varnish while competing.
She hopes that her image, as well as her sporting achievements, will inspire female athletes in the future.
“People ask me ‘why do you wear make-up when you run?’ and ‘why are you so stylish?’ and a big part of it for me was to show young girls that you don’t have to be butch or masculine to be a great athlete,” she said.
“I’ve had so many girls during my career saying ‘thanks for making it cool to wear make-up on the track’. My hope is that I’ve empowered some young women to go towards sports because sport is one of the best life teachers you can have.”
Dopers making ‘impact’ on athletics
Richards-Ross’ time of 48.70 seconds in the women’s 400m is the fastest since 2005.
The world record of 47.6 was set by East German athlete Marita Koch in 1985 but there has always been doubt cast over the time.
Koch competed during a period when it is known that East Germany was doping its athletes but she has denied any wrongdoing and never failed a test.
When asked about doping in track and field, Richards-Ross said: “The more we hear about these horror stories of the best athletes in the world not being clean, it definitely impacts on our sport.
“I think the IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] needs to go back as far as they have records to ensure the records we are competing against are clean and fair.
“I want to see the IAAF do everything they can to make sure the sport is clean.”
You can listen to the full interview with Emma Barnett on 5 live Daily on Tuesday, 15 August.
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