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Former Olympian cites depression for secret life as prostitute

By Eddie Pells

AP National Writer

LAST UPDATED: 12:56 p.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012

Her image could hardly have been better: Athletic. A knockout. All-American. So accomplished and so wholesome that Disneyland hired her for speaking engagements, the Big Ten named an award after her and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association made her their pitchwoman.

Yet something troubled Suzy Favor Hamilton. The former track star out of Wisconsin, whose speed and talent took her to seven national championships and three Olympics, ultimately dealt with her demons by stealing away to live a life as a highly paid prostitute.

An "escape," she called it, that was really a way of masking an American Dream coming unhinged — a real-life tragedy that undercut the myth that success, wealth and fame is a surefire path to happiness.

"I do not expect people to understand," Favor Hamilton said in a frenzied burst of tweets after details about her secret life became public Thursday in a report on The Smoking Gun website. "But the reasons for doing this made sense to me at the time and were very much related to depression."

Stanley Teitelbaum, a psychologist who wrote the book "Athletes Who Indulge Their Dark Side," said it's not so difficult to understand. After retiring, and spending most of her life trying to live up to a certain ideal and getting her highs from the adrenaline rush of elite, competitive sports, day-to-day life in the civilian world can seem boring.

"You've got to think of an emotional outlet, maybe in her case, a nonconventional outlet, a way of getting high by somehow being a bad girl in contrast to her image of an upstanding, Olympic athlete," Teitelbaum said.

In an interview earlier this year with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Favor Hamilton said she dealt with anxiety, an eating disorder and struggled with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Kylie, now 7. But, she told the newspaper, "I feel better than I've ever felt."

At the time of the interview, it turned out, she was doubling as "Kelly Lundy," a $600-an-hour call girl for an escort service based in Las Vegas.

Apparently, it wasn't for the money. In the Journal Sentinel profile, Favor Hamilton said she gave upward of 60 motivational speeches each year and ran a successful realty firm, in addition to doing appearances for Disney and the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series. The Smoking Gun reported that a check through public records showed she lived in a $600,000 house in the Madison suburb of Shorewood Hills and that neither she nor her husband, Mark, had any outward signs of financial difficulties.

Some homes in Shorewood Hills back onto university property.

There was no answer at the front door of her house today — a sizeable, split-level home at the end of a cul de sac where a hurdle emblazoned with the word "Wisconsin" sits, snow covered, alongside the driveway.

A neighbor, Bob Lynch, who used to coach boxing at Wisconsin, said he used to see Favor Hamilton, her husband and daughter walking around the neighborhood and "they looked like a solid, little family."

"She's really successful," Lynch said. "Madison's a small town that way. If you were a sports hero at the university, you could do well in business."

Neither Favor Hamilton nor her husband, Mark Hamilton, was at their real estate office today, which was closing for the Christmas holiday.

In the wake of the news, Disney canceled an upcoming appearance by Favor Hamilton, the Orange County Register reported. The Big Ten conference, which hands out the Suzy Favor Athlete of the Year Award to honor an athlete who won 23 conference and nine NCAA titles, had no comment today. A spokesman for the UW athletic department also declined comment.

A walk around the campus in Madison paints a compelling picture of the revered status she still holds at Wisconsin.

Inside the Kohl Center, where the Wisconsin basketball team plays, Favor Hamilton is remembered on a long wall near the entrance commemorating "great moments in athletics history," which also includes Heisman winner Ron Dayne and other UW greats.

In another area, where the trophy awarded to her as the 1989-1990 Collegiate Woman of the Year is on display, a plaque beneath it reads, "There's only one Suzy." Favor Hamilton is also singled out on the university's website describing the displays, describing her as "incomparable."

But when Favor Hamilton was in school, according to two people who knew her then, she was generally regarded as shy and unassuming. Despite that, she had ways of grabbing attention that now have an odd resonance. She was sporadically injured and unable to practice on the track, so to get her cardio work in, she would swim laps in the pool while the men's team was practicing. While one-piece suits were the norm for women training in an athletic environment, Favor Hamilton would peel off into a head-turning, two-piece bikini.

It wasn't the last time Favor Hamilton would garner attention for her looks during a career that spanned three Olympics.

She had modeling contracts and was did a photo shoot for the Suzy Favor Hamilton 1997 calendar, which labels her as a "Three-time Olympian ... and more."

In 2000, she starred in a Nike commercial that's a send-up of horror movies. Dressed in a sports bra and running shorts, Favor Hamilton is stalked through the woods by a chainsaw-wielding zombie, but escapes by simply outrunning him. Message: "Why sport? You'll live longer."

The commercial ran the same year as her last appearance at the Olympics.

She ran at those games to honor her brother, Dan, who committed suicide in 1999. In the 1500-meter final, Favor Hamilton was leading the race with 200 meters to go. But with runners starting to pass her, she told the Journal Sentinel she intentionally fell down, ashamed she couldn't win a medal to honor her brother.

"Coming around that corner the anxiety gripped me so bad," she said. "It told my brain, 'Just fall. That's the easiest solution. Just fall, and this all will go away.' That was the only way out.'"

In an interview with The Smoking Gun about her double life, Favor Hamilton said that as a world-class runner she started to believe she was invincible and brought up Tiger Woods, saying, "I mean, he's the biggest athlete ever. He obviously thought he could never get caught."

Though Woods and Favor Hamilton experienced far different levels of success and fame, Teitelbaum, the psychologist, said their experiences aren't so far removed.

"There's the sense of entitlement, grandiosity, the idea you can do whatever you want without worrying about consequences," he said. "She needed to have some way to express some other side of herself that didn't feel as clean or wonderful or upstanding as she appeared to be."

While living the secret life, though, Favor Hamilton couldn't fight the temptation to tell some of her clients who she really was. She believes one of those clients eventually "outed" her — and now her alias is no longer a secret.

"Doing something like that adds to the sense of the drama," Teitelbaum said. "And there's always a self-destructive component. Whether it's based on shame or guilt, it seems like, ultimately, these people find a way to self-destruct."

Associated Press writers Jim Litke and Scott Bauer contributed to this report from Madison, Wis.

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toomuchpilikia wrote:
Why the does the media believe this to be important? This is personal...come on media!
on December 21,2012 | 04:24AM
onevoice82 wrote:
Character means everything, especially when you are a public fiquer. She needs to embrace her mistakes and move on in life and maybe be an example to others that have fallen in life and picked thelmselves up. That is why.
on December 21,2012 | 04:35AM
allie wrote:
and we hope you embrace your mistakes and make amends
on December 21,2012 | 05:10AM
onevoice82 wrote:
I do, and so should you.
on December 21,2012 | 07:15AM
allie wrote:
Very true..this is her personal business.
on December 21,2012 | 05:10AM
stingray65 wrote:
Because media do not have better thing to do. !
on December 21,2012 | 09:16AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
I will pray for Suzy and her family to find peace and happiness in her life.
on December 21,2012 | 05:43AM
cojef wrote:
Tough to believe??? She has battles with her demons if what she says she did with her marriage, vi-a-vis, her clandestine life.
on December 21,2012 | 06:46AM
pridon wrote:
Wonder if Eliot Spitzer was one of her "tricks".
on December 21,2012 | 03:06PM
DABLACK wrote:
Go for it Favor ! May we all understand and have compassion for individuals like her !
on December 21,2012 | 07:34AM
BigOpu wrote:
Did she hurt anyone? Her husband knows about it, so what's the issue?
on December 21,2012 | 08:58AM
inverse wrote:
Like Tiger Woods, it is the lying and deception that is the issue. If people want and/or can afford to live their lives with never ending excitement, challenges and nothing to tie them down, then DON'T create a fake persona of loving father/mother that will destine their spouse and children to emotional pain and suffering and make money deceiving people in pretending to be positive public role models . Favor and Tiger are two extremely self-centered individuals who really could care less about anyone except themselves. That in itself is NOT a bad thing as that kind of personality is what allows someone like Tiger or Favor to reach the top of their sport or profession. The problem is they are so arrogant and self-centered, the feel societal rules do not and should not apply to them.
on December 21,2012 | 10:01AM
stingray65 wrote:
She did what she have to do. Survival!!! At least she earned a living, regardless. She is not in Welfare and pay her own medical bills and grocery!!
on December 21,2012 | 09:15AM
Mythman wrote:
Media thrives on a hide and seek mentality - oh, the media is going to expose your secrets and take your power from you is the game. Sick. Everyone should have no secrets therefore no way for media to have power over you. This was a nasty little control trick used effectively by J Edgar Hoover, FBI chief - F*ck media
on December 21,2012 | 12:17PM
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