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Jessica is our 2016 Olympic Hopeful and Sarah is our 2012 Olympian in Weightlifting. We're setting out to be "Pretty Strong" and we encourage you to do the same.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Addressing the consequences of a difficult choice.

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


Beverly said...

Sarah...Your health comes FIRST!!! Keep us posted and we will look forward to those Olympics - If indeed you health is ok. You are still a gold medal winner to me. :)

Daisy said...

Your health and well being must always come first. I am sorry for the suspension, and I will always be a huge fan! I love you and support your decision!

MAMA JONES said...

You must take care of yourself. I am so sorry that you will be out for 2 years. You are a wonderful influence and example for young women, keep being that. What a great example you set by addressing this so openly. Hugs!

Sadie Blackeyes said...

Sarah Robles, I have the same thing. It is miserable. I am heartbroken that it has affected you in this manner and that the sporting professionals were not sensitive to the condition and the treatment thereof.
I've been following your story ever since I read about the disparity of the treatment of male and female athletes in your field, I can't remember which article, sorry! Since that moment I have been inspired by you.

Who I am has always made me timid and afraid to do the things I want to do. I've always felt that people would take me less seriously than others. It's made for a hard life punctuated by these amazing moments of freedom where I just throw myself headlong at the world. And that lasts as long as it lasts.
And then there's you - strongest woman in the world, not afraid to be there on television, in lycra looking really strong, in a floaty dress looking really pretty and both versions of you the kind of beauty anyone would be proud to have, augmented by this added dimension - you don't give up. You cut through it all and keep going. You'll fight the stupid hormones with all the weapons at your disposal and then go and show those new girls a thing or two. Girls no doubt following your lead and inspired by your life choices.
Never underestimate how important you are.

Thank you very much Sarah Robles, good luck with the treatment, I look forward to seeing you compete again in two years.
All the very, very best,

Anonymous said...

Wishing you the very best, and good health. Use these two years to focus on your health. You may not be able to compete professionally, but they cant stop you from working out or two years, you'll come back better than ever! You're an inspiration to all.

Anonymous said...

Well said, You need to come first and I hope to see you compete in '16.

Sarah said...

supporting you from sweden!! PCOS is not something to take lightly and you have fans out there that support your decision. the best of luck in your treatment. <3 <3 <3

Jules Marsh said...

Sarah, I am so sorry that happened. I almost had a similar issue. My naturopath started me on DHEA-sulfate, and a couple of months later WADA added it to the banned list. I hope you know that you are still an amazing inspiration to so many people. For my money, this doesn't make you any less awesome, and I can't wait to see you lift in Rio!

Anonymous said...

Joe Micela's official statement on this issue is complete bullshit. Extremely insensitive and was written like an ego maniac.

Anonymous said...

dont forget she also tested positive for testosterone and pregnanediol

Bunny said...

I completely disagree with their stance on your situation but admire the way you're handling it.

Kudos to you for being the better person, Sarah. It has to hurt being banned from competing for a while. I'm sorry about that.

PCOS is serious and you are doing what you need to take care of yourself.


Anonymous said...

This is why WADA/USADA infuriate me! No one is willing to have the ethics discussion, especially with heavier athletes, who want to get a handle on their health. If anything you're an inspiration for TALKING ABOUT IT and not trying to hide. There are other medications as well that many have gotten "busted" for that are on the "banned" list but for 100% medical reasons (insulin for diabetics, ADHD meds, High BP medications, asthma inhalers, and yes, even synthetic testosterone, etc.) and are also dealing with suspensions as you are just to bring their bodies to a LOW normal level. It's WRONG! Keep lifting heavy and show the world what you're made of! If that means the 2016 Olympics, GREAT, if not, get out there and be the voice of reason that needs to be heard. The technology is there for testing and catching those truly trying to "cheat". For those who have legitimate medical conditions wherever they live worldwide, they should not have to chose between the sport they love and the longevity of their life!

rroggiero427 said...

I applaud your bravery to tell your story! Hang in there and know you are supported by so many! I started lifting in June of this year and have a pituitary tumor that secrets the growth hormone. I am on daily and monthly injections to control that hormone but I noticed when I had a lapse in medication, my strength increased.... My docs said it would. Your story makes me wonder (because I've never had the need to read any rules because I don't compete) if I would be penalized for NOT taking my medications? Not that I would stop taking them intentionally! :) you're an amazing athlete!

Cody the clydesdale said...

My wife has PCOS. we all know first hand how difficult PCOS can be for her. I feel for u and support u.

I used to be a hard core triathlete. I qualified for 6 national championships and one world championship, I was fast, healthy, and full of confidence. then 2 years ago I got ran over by a vehicle while cycling. I suffered a traumatic brain injury. since the accident I gained 120 pounds, suffered from severe depression etc. Without triathlon for fun, stress relief, and health I felt like my life was over. 6 weeks ago I started Olympic weightlifting and its already made such a huge difference in my life. because of Olympic weightlifting and all the wonderful people I've met in the sport I've realized there is life, happiness, and competition after triathlon. I've been reading a lot of your old blog posts for motivation. u inspire me. I can't even fathom how hard this has been for you. being banned from something you love so much. I know how low I've felt the last couple years. please know there's SO many of us out here who love and support u fully.

on a side note, I'm sure your still training and living the Olympic weightlifting life. please continue posting about your training and life. there's so many of is who love reading about it and find motivation from your blog. please don't stop posting. we still care and want to experience as much of your amazing personality and talent as we can.