I want to address the presence of artificial DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) supplementation, in a regular test administered by the International Weightlifting Federation on June 29th, 2013, after taking the supplement at the advice of my doctor.
DHEA is a hormonal precursor supplement which can be used in treating poly-cystic ovary syndrome (commonly known as PCOS). Due to my PCOS, which is a common type of hormone disorder, there are benign cysts that form in the lining of my ovaries.
Because of this, like many other women who suffer from PCOS, I experience no menses, high levels of masculinizing hormones, centralized obesity, and thyroid issues. My doctor had also advised me that if PCOS is left untreated, I could experience many more severe health issues, such as diabetes, infertility, sleep apnea, chronic depression, heart attack, or even uterine cancer.
My doctor and I worked together to try different treatment options for my PCOS, as a preventative measure. Because my progesterone and DHEA levels are naturally quite low because of PCOS, my doctor felt that supplementing with DHEA would help balance things out in my system. We did not feel that bringing my DHEA to a normal level would be contradictory to my stance as a clean athlete.
When tested and found to have artificial DHEA levels in my system, I vigorously defended my position, appealing the test on medical grounds. In their ruling, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have determined that I am to be suspended for two years from weightlifting, during the time I will not be able to compete professionally in my chosen sport, or in any other professional sport.
While disappointed in their decision, I accept the conditions of my suspension, and I am grateful to the IWF and USADA for taking all facets of my situation into consideration when their decision was made. Although it breaks my heart to be away from the sport I love for two years, I made a choice to take care of my health as advised by my doctor.
I want it to be clear that I made this private decision only with my doctor’s recommendation, and that decision did not involve my professional team. I regret that this situation might be misconstrued against my sport, my supporters, or my teammates. I have always wished to do all that I can to live up to the high expectations that others have had of me, as well as the goals I have set for myself. I have always advocated clean sport, and I still do. I also support a person’s ability to take care of themselves and their health.
As much as I am obviously upset over damaging my own reputation, I am enormously sorry beyond anything I can adequately express for how this situation might tarnish the reputation of my coach and USA Weightlifting. For my teammates, competitors, supporters, sponsors, and fans, please know how sincerely sorry I am if this suspension lets you down in any way. I am grateful to have a clear conscience, knowing that I did not use DHEA for anything other than treating my PCOS, and I am thankful for the outpouring of love and support that has come from so many at this time.
As with everything in life, I strive to seek a balance between my profession, my health, and my private life. These decisions can be difficult, but are vital to protect my well-being. Going forward, I will be taking greater precautions in making these decisions in a transparent and open manner with my coach and team, as well as with my athletic governing bodies, whenever necessary.
I still have a lot to give as an athlete, and I plan on returning to weightlifting, with hopes to participate in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I also plan to continue advocacy for positive body image, women’s rights, and of course, clean sport.
- Sarah Robles