By Stuart Koman, PhD  and Gail Hanson-Mayer, APRN

olympic symbolThere have been few reports of professional athletes with eating disorders, but that’s not surprising.  For an athlete to admit that he or she has an eating disorder would be about as helpful to a career as admitting to taking anabolic steroids.

There have, however, been plenty of stories about Olympic athletes with eating disorders.  Consider a few examples:

  • Bahne Rabe, a male rower who won eight gold medals, died from complications related to anorexia.
  • Gymnasts Helga Brathen and Christy Henrich are also among those who died from complications related to anorexia.
  • Cathy Rigby, the first American woman to win a medal in World Gymnastics, suffered from bulimia.
  • Gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who won nine gold medals, suffered from bulimia and also overcame anorexia.
  • Brittany Viola, a diver, developed bulimia when she was 15.
  • Zina Garrison, who played tennis and won two Olympic medals, suffered from bulimia.
  • Jamie Silverstein, a pairs figure skater, sought help for her anorexia and took four years off from ice skating to recover before returning to competitive skating.
  • Triathlete Hollie Avil was training for the 2012 London Olympics and ended her athletic career because of anorexia and depression.

Recognizing that many other athletes suffer from eating disorders, Avil is seeking to start a charity to help athletes with eating disorders.