Sarah Robles Bounces Back After Doping Scandal, Wins First US Weightlifting Medal in 16 Years

Lead Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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This weekend, Sarah Robles, 28, won a bronze medal – ending the United States’ weightlifting drought. Team USA hadn’t won a medal in weightlifting since 2000. But with Robles, who competed in the +75kg division, landing in third after North Korea’s Kim Kuk-Hyang and China’s Meng Suping, the US got its first Olympic medal in the sport in 16 years.

But it’s not likely that everyone is celebrating Robles. In 2013, the embattled athlete received a two-year ban. She officially made her comeback in August 2015, but other weightlifters have opposed her inclusion into US weightlifting teams. It also doesn’t help that the topic of doping has lingered in the air at this year’s games. The International Olympic Committee banned many Russian athletes because they didn’t meet strict anti-doping criteria. US swimmer Lilly King further brought the issue into the spotlight with her comments about Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova. King believed that as someone who had previously been suspended for doping, Efimova shouldn’t have competed in Rio.

After the 2013 Pan American Championships, the International Weightlifting Federation banned her after testing positive for Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). At the time, Robles said that she took DHEA to treat a hormonal imbalance tied to polycystic ovary syndrome on her doctor’s recommendation. “My doctor and I worked together to try different treatment options for my PCOS, as a preventative measure,” she said, according to BuzzFeed. “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.”

During her two-year ban, Robles worked at Home Depot, Macy’s and a veterinary hospital and she continued to train. She knew that once she made her official return, she’d have to deal with backlash. But to her, winning is so important, because she said it gives weightlifting increased exposure, according to Reuters.

And before the Olympics, she told EFE that she hoped to win to inspire Latinos to try sports. “As an Olympic athlete, I represent all Americans, but representing Latinos and Latinas is a great honor.”