A Suicidal Zane Robertson Opens Up About His Doping Positive: “Coming Home From My Brother’s Place Today, I Just Wanted to Go and Shoot Myself in the Head”

By Robert Johnson
March 23, 2023

If you are having suicidal thoughts, pick up the phone and call or text 988 in the US or go to 988lifeline.org. International suicide support numbers can be found here.

An emotional Zane Robertson appeared as the featured guest on an episode of New Zealand broadcaster Dom Harvey‘s Runners Only! podcast that was released on Wednesday. In it, Robertson, a two-time Olympian and the New Zealand record holder in the marathon, talks about the news that broke on Tuesday — he tested for EPO in May 2022. Robertson was suspended from the sport for eight years for the positive test and for trying to cover it up with fake doctor’s notes claiming he was given EPO when all he asked for was a COVID-19 vaccine.

On the podcast, Robertson said he only recently started doping, calling it a “one-off” that was the result of many things. Robertson said in addition to being treated for depression, he also had recently gone through a messy divorce that involved extortion attempts and death threats. Adding to the financial pressure that a divorce causes, road race opportunities dried up during COVID and Robertson spent much of his savings waiting out the pandemic in New Zealand. Then his shoe sponsor Asics dropped him. Having seen many of his fellow competitors dope over the years, Robertson said he reached a desperate breaking point.

“It’s been building on me for a few years — frustration and anger at the sport itself, and at any elite sport. I just believe the top is — it’s not a level playing field. I started asking myself this question, ‘Why do people like myself always have to be the ones to lose or suffer and in the end lose our contracts, lose our income, lose our race winnings and eventually end up not having the ability to have a family or live anywhere else in the world from the predicaments we’re in?'”

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Later he elaborated:

“Try being me try being 16 years in the sport and not having a lot to show for it. But also realizing that you can’t move back home to New Zealand ever. You can’t maybe have a family ever, because you can’t provide enough. If sport is your only source of income and you’re running out of income options as COVID wiped out the prize money and the appearance money, then what do you have left? I mean it’s a terrible situation that I was in. But there were a lot of things that led up to that as well, like my depression and it’s just making me make bad decisions.

“…The more I went along in my career, the more I saw of just how it is [with doping] and it can really destroy [you] and like it can break [you] down to [your] knees. You think, ‘Why them, Why not me?’ Until I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I had enough.

“…I think if there’s a word for it, yes, desperation, desperation definitely comes to mind.”

Thoughts of suicide

Robertson, who allegedly had a difficult childhood that involved bullying, said he had contemplated suicide even before this EPO positive.

“When I got depressed, I started talking to a psychiatrist in the high performance sports system. And he helped me through a lot of things. I wanted to die, I didn’t want to live anymore. And I didn’t know why I was doing the sport anymore. And I think that would have been just the right time to maybe try and find something else to do and retire. Unfortunately, we don’t always make the right decisions. And sadly, as a professional athlete, we’re always really in the public eye and just judged for these decisions and mistakes that we make, and then called out for them and horrible ways. So I’m trying to deal with this in the best way possible right now.”

When asked how his headspace was on Wednesday, Robertson was frank.

“Not not good to be honest. Today was one of my worst days. If I’m gonna be totally honest, coming home from my brother’s place today I just wanted to go and shoot myself in the head.”

Zane Robertson seemed most upset about the fact that his EPO bust is likely to greatly harm his twin brother Jake, who is currently unsponsored, as well as Jake’s wife Magdalyne, also a professional runner, as many are going to assume Jake is also a cheat.

“It’s very unfair. I mean, if one student in the classroom cheats, are they all cheating? Just because they’re all in that same classroom. It’s bullshit. And people want to do that to him. And they’ve already started posting on his wall today and and it’s horrible, man. It’s just terrible.”

Robertson said that while he wasn’t on EPO long, it seemed to work.

“The one time I took it, I did feel that I could move in training like I was in great shape, and clearly I wasn’t in great shape before it. It just makes you feel a lot easier when you’re pushing out your maximum for a lot longer. So I guess it could have the effect on training, like over a long period of time as well, that it’s helping recovery, it’s helping you train harder, longer, many more days.”

“I was just trying to save my ass”

Robertson said he was told of the positive test in September 2022 and took full responsibility for coming up with the elaborate ruse that he was mistakenly given EPO instead of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want to take full blame for that as well. That was my idea. To me, [a four-year ban was] the same as eight, it’s the end of my career. [I knew] there’s no coming back from this so I was just trying to save my ass.”

What’s next for Zane Robertson? He said he had no idea.

“I am not sure right now. I think it’s a lot easier for me to disappear [in Kenya] than in New Zealand so if I can just disappear, I will. I haven’t put much thought to it yet.”

However, Robertson said Kenya likely won’t be his long-time home as his visa will eventually run out.

When asked what he’d like to say to his fans who looked up to him, Robertson was apologetic.

“I definitely would tell them I’m really sorry that I let them all down and I just want to tell them this wasn’t my whole career…I always wanted to do my best to everyone who looked up to me in such a way, and I’m sorry.”

When asked what he’d like to be remembered for, Robertson, the New Zealand record holder in the half marathon and marathon, said, Being remembered for not just for the running,  for running fast or for running records or anything like that — just for kind of having a dream and giving it a real shot, giving it a go, and giving it 100% despite everyone telling us that you can’t do this, it isn’t possible. That’s what I’d like to be remembered for.”

Robertson said most of the social media messages he’s received — 80 percent — have been from people he knows and have been supportive. But the 20% that have been negative are tough to deal with.

“I just think, the human race, I think sometimes people can learn to be a little bit nicer to one another, you know, just don’t be so horrible to people on their darkest days, because you never know what that person’s gone through and what they still have to go through. So like, today, I got I just saw some things that made me like, almost considered just like, offing myself, you know. And these people, I’ve never met them in my life. But you know, if you just press on someone who’s has a dark mind, or a dark thought process at the time (host cut him off).”

Dom Harvey’s Runners Only! podcast with Jake Robertson can be listened to here. The YouTube version of it is also embedded at the top.

Talk about Zane Robertson podcast appearance on our world-famous fan forum/messageboard:

PS. One more important point from the podcast. Around the 8:30 mark, Robertson said that while he and his ex-wife were living in Ethiopia (his ex-wife is Ethiopian), they had been talking about potentially doping for a while and one day he came home and she had bought some EPO. He said it “stayed in the house for a very long time” but when he moved to Kenya, he took it with him. It’s notable that the couple obtained EPO while they were living in Ethiopia rather than Kenya as there are far more drug cases involving Kenyan athletes right now.

Previous Zane Robertson MB Talk:

Non-LRC articles: 2020: Bullied in New Zealand, LA Marathon hopeful Zane Robertson found a home in East Africa
 Kiwi Olympic runner Zane Robertson urges fellow athletes to ‘come out of the shadows’ on doping
2012: New Zealand twins racing out of Africa

If you are having suicidal thoughts, pick up the phone and call or text 988 in the US or go to 988lifeline.org. International suicide numbers support can be found here.

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