Former U.S. Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton, a star high-school track athlete in Stevens Point and later in college at the University of Wisconsin, apparently led a secret life for nearly a year as a $600-an-hour escort in Las Vegas.
In a shocking story that appears on thesmokinggun.com, Hamilton admits to working for the escort service, calling it a "huge mistake."
"I take full responsibility for my mistakes. I'm not the victim and I'm not going that route," she told reporters for the website. "I'm owning up to what I did. I would not blame anybody except myself."
She added: "Everybody in this world makes mistakes. I made a huge mistake. Huge."
On Thursday, Hamilton began sending out messages on her Twitter account (@favorhamilton), saying she had led a double life.
"I realize I have made highly irrational choices and I take full responsibility for them. I am not a victim here and knew what I was doing," she wrote. "I was drawn to escorting in large part because it provided many coping mechanisms for me when I was going through a very challenging time with my marriage and my life. It provided an escape from a life that I was struggling in. It was a double life."
She said on Twitter that she never thought she would be exposed.
"I have been seeking the help of a psychologist for the past few weeks and will continue to do so after I have put things together," she said. "I cannot emphasize enough how sorry I am to anyone I have hurt as a result of my actions and greatly appreciate the support from family and those closest to me. I fully intend to make amends and get back to being a good mother, wife, daughter, and friend."
Hamilton is a three-time Olympian and has worked in recent years as a motivational speaker and has done promotional work for groups and organizations.
She and her husband still live in the Madison area.
William Bastone, a co-founder and editor of TheSmokingGun.com, and the reporter who wrote the story, said his office received a tip about Hamilton about six weeks ago. Bastone said that, while he was familiar with some well-known female track and field athletes, he had no idea who Hamilton was.
He said he met with her twice in Las Vegas and later spoke to her by phone before the story was published. He said she asked him to give her time to alert people she worked with and associated with that a story was imminent.
"I attempted to give her as much of a voice in the piece as possible," Bastone said. "I think we also tried to avoid some of the more salacious details and narratives and reviews that clients posted about her."
Bastone said he did not believe Hamilton worked for the escort service for money.
"She doesn't fit the mold," Bastone said. "She's a public figure. She's known in certain circles. That doesn't fit the average woman working with operations like this."
Bastone said he was surprised that Hamilton shared information with some of her clients.
"She was very careless in terms of talking about herself, telling guys her name, her date of birth, her athletic exploits, even telling guys her real name," he said. "She gave other people biographical details that were very easy to figure out who she was."
In a Journal Sentinel story in July, Hamilton talked about her struggles to overcome anxiety, self-doubt, an eating disorder and depression.
As a runner, Hamilton had a storied career: a seven-time U.S. national champion and winner of nine NCAA titles. Earlier this year, she was honored for being the 19th-greatest athlete in Big Ten history.
The Big Ten Conference annually gives out a female athlete of the year award in Hamilton's name.
Dan Cruz, a spokesman for the Rock N Roll Marathon Series, which worked with Hamilton at four or five running events, said the group would no longer be working with Hamilton.
"We are shocked, embarrassed and deeply saddened by the recent reports that Suzy Favor Hamilton lived a double life as an escort. Admittedly this was a part of a secret life that she did not share with those, like us, that she worked with in her capacity as a former world-class athlete."
We will have more on this story later today.
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