Emily Abbott: The Only Way Out is Through

January 1, 2021 by
Credit: Emily Abbott (
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Emily Abbott was no stranger to success in the sport of CrossFit. After breaking through by winning the Canada West Regional in 2014, Abbott earned four consecutive trips to the CrossFit Games and had a career-best finish of 8th place in 2015. 

In 2018, when she won the West Regional, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Yes, the field of competitors was strong, and winning was certainly impressive, but the fact that she’d qualified for the Games by winning her Region was not new for her, and a 5th straight trip to the Games seemed par for the course. 

When CrossFit HQ released an announcement a month and a half later reporting 13 Regional athletes who had failed drug tests, Abbott’s name topped the list. She responded quickly, and the Morning Chalk Up reported on it. 

Since then, there’s been little mention of her at all. For those curious about what happens to athletes like Abbott who had experienced success in the sport for a while and then had everything they’ve been working towards taken from them rather abruptly due to a failed drug test, Emily was gracious enough to share with us what these last two years have been like for her. She hopes that others who are going through a tough time (for any reason) can benefit from her story.

  • Abbott: “I went into the competition in a great place. I had great coaches and the best training plan I’d ever been on. I was ready and prepared to perform. I was engaged to a man and felt like everything was falling into place in my life. I won the competition, I was so in my element. And then I got a call from a friend saying I’d failed a drug test.”
  • “My stomach dropped, and the hell began. I didn’t sleep or eat for a couple of days. The cortisol was pumping and it was [absolutely horrible]; something I’d wish on nobody. It opened my eyes to people who are going through difficult times,” she said.

What’s the Process Like?

“I tried my best to file appeals, disclose all supplements, and prove my case. It ended up being a case of passive transmission. My fiance at the time was taking a sub-lingual banned substance. That relationship dissolved and brought out new pain,” Abbott said. 

  • “It was the worst time of my life, and it was really hard on my family. They could see my pain, and they had some too because their daughter was being called a cheater and [her name] was being dragged through the mud.”
  • “I tried hard as [heck] to be in victim mode. To be angry with CrossFit. To be angry with my partner. But ultimately it was all on me. I could not run from myself anymore. I had to look inward, open the door, and do the hard work of self-examination,” she said.

Abbott moved on from that victim mentality eventually though, and what she’s been able to accomplish personally since then has been extremely fulfilling for her.

  • Abbott: “I’ve had to do a lot of work and unpack everything that has happened. When that chapter of my life was closed, my whole life opened up. I traveled around the world. I did some sacred ceremonies and ayahuasca work. I’ve been completely ripped open as a person. It’s been the best and worst journey of my life.”
  • “I had a lot of shame and guilt [during and prior to] CrossFit. I was training four hours a day, posting pictures for companies, which felt like some kind of prostitution. I was in a scarcity mentality asking myself things like where will I make money? Who will sponsor me? How do I stay relevant? I had sculpted a great body, but my spiritual and emotional banks were empty.”

Through her travels and experiences since then, the way she views herself and understands herself has completely transformed: “I know [now] that I have the soul of a warrior. In India at an ashram, I really began to unravel because I couldn’t distract myself anymore from the pain. I sat around and meditated by the Ghanges river.”

The evolution has continued from there: “My pure essence in nature is really coming forward, I’d like to communicate that to other women, specifically in athletics. Women have a much different body, and journey, and purpose, then men. It’s important for them to know that. I was only operating at 50% of my energetic capacity when I was training CrossFit and in my previous athletic endeavors. I was continually and effectively brushing aside my femininity.”

She’s creating a workshop called The Art of Being an Athletic Woman as a means to help women “unleash the magnetic, radiant, and unstoppable woman within every female. And come home to their bodies through training with their unique physiology, honouring their menstrual cycles and tapping into the power of their pelvic bowl and sexuality.”

  • “The pain is the remedy of the greater gift. I feel way better now about who I am than I did five years ago. [What happened to me] is the worst thing in an athlete’s world that [can] happen. It was my crucifixion. But it has given me so many gifts and redirected me on a path that is much more fulfilling,” Abbott said.

Where is She Now?

Abbott said, “I was in a sport that was ranking my worth based on my performance. So to be in a place now where I feel validated in who I am regardless is very cool. It was a major course correction, and I’m very grateful for it.”

She has a message she wants to get out there, and it’s not one that is new or unique to her.

  • “Through the darkest story, comes your greatest gift. Any trial, tribulation, or pain is an opportunity. There are incredible gifts on the other side when we surrender to the pain. It woke me up and I’m so grateful for the entire experience.”

Will She Return to CrossFit?

Since 2018, her view on fitness has evolved as well, “you don’t have to do that much when it comes to health and wellness to keep our bodies healthy.” She still enjoys working out, but she understands it differently, “There’s always an emotion we’re trying to avoid. When we get really good at being with every sensation we become very powerful again. I expect we’ll see [another] shift in weightlifting and conditioning over the next couple of years.”

  • Abbott: “My body might not appear the way it used to, but so many other aspects of my life are so much better: from education to relationships, to food, to sex. I get to choose those things and it’s incredibly freeing.” 
  • “The waking up process can be painful,” she concluded, “but it’s very fulfilling too. The only way out is through.”

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