On June 5, 2017, British track and field athlete Jazmin Sawyers tweeted that she had to withdraw from an athletics competition because of her period. The tweet, which included an explanation for why she withdrew, went viral with more than 500 shares and 2,350 likes.
I sadly had to pull out of the competition here in Boston yesterday – I'm fine, and will be jumping in Oslo next week, but give this a read pic.twitter.com/go810aSM0V
— Jazmin Sawyers (@JazminSawyers) June 5, 2017
At the time, she wrote on Twitter that “we discuss injuries and illnesses openly, but this [getting your period] is something we don’t talk about and I wanted to put it out there because I’m sure there are other young athletes dealing with it.”
In a follow-up, on Jan. 28, 2018, Sawyers, 23, authored “This is important. Period” for Spikes, a website operated by the IAAF, the governing body for international athletics. “It’s not cute, and it’s not sexy, but we have to talk about periods,” she says in the opening line of the piece.
Sawyers recalls her experience at the 2016 Rio Olympics when she was on the doctor’s table crying and screaming in agony because she was on her period. “It was more or less what having my period has become for me,” she says. She explains that she tried several things, including medication and “a bunch of different painkillers,” adding that she wasn’t prepared because “I brought it up to doctors far too late because I didn’t want to talk about it. I was embarrassed, because we’ve made it embarrassing.”
“Women’s performance is suffering all over because they haven’t addressed the problem sooner, they didn’t realize they had a problem, or because sports medicine isn’t dealing with their problem adequately,” she says. She emphasizes that “what we can do is talk” adding that she hopes talking about periods will become a normal thing to discuss.
Sawyers, a silver medallist in the long jump at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is not the only notable athlete to openly discuss periods in recent months.
Mary Keitany, the best women’s marathoner in the world right now, said she got her period for the first time in three months on the eve of the 2017 New York City Marathon, a race in which she finished second, behind Shalane Flanagan. At the post-race press conference, she cited a “problem,” according to Citius Mag and her agent later confirmed she was referring to her period.