Last month U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson secured a spot at the Tokyo Olympics by winning the 100m race with a runaway victory of 10.86 seconds. Today it remains unclear whether she will be allowed to compete in the games at all.
Yesterday it was announced by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that Richardson would not be eligible to compete in her signature event due to testing positive for THC, a compound found in cannabis. The 2021 World Anti-Doping Code has recently declared the compound a “Substance of Abuse” due to being “frequently used in society outside the context of sport.”
Richardson publicly accepted all responsibility for the incident and has since given an apology, something that sporting officials and members of the USADA have shown respect for. CEO of the USADA Travis T. Tygart said “The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her.”
Friday morning Richardson appeared on the Today show for an interview, speaking out about the suspension and disqualification. Although visibly bothered by not being able to compete, she stayed composed and once again took responsibility. Richardson shared the factors that lead to her consuming cannabis: the death of her biological mother days prior, her mental health in general and the need to hide her pain from the world as she competed for her dream. Even though Richardson opened up about her reasoning, she was not looking for any lesser actions to be taken.
In her interview she stated “I just want to take responsibility for my actions, I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do, I’m allowed not to do and I still made that decision. I’m not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case.”
Following her statements Nike announced that they would not be letting her go as a Nike Athlete, and would “continue to support her through this time.”
Although Richardson cannot compete in the 100m sprint, which she was a favored medalist for, the possibility of her running in the 4x100m relay is up to Team USA. While the team has issued no statement yet, the USADA provided clarity with a statement on Friday on the status of her eligibility: “Richardson’s competitive results obtained on June 19, 2021, including her Olympic qualifying results at the Team Trials, have been disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points, and prizes. Beyond the one-month suspension, athlete eligibility for the Tokyo Games is determined by the USOPC and/or USA Track & Field eligibility rules.”
After Sha’Carri Richardson appeared on the Today show discussing her one-month suspension from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics people took to social media in support of the young athlete.
Adam Rippon, an Olympic skater, said in a tweet, “As an athlete we know the rules,” pointing out that Richardson “has acknowledged” those rules. Rippon noted while some athletes took “steroids for performance enhancement, in what world would marijuana enhance performance???” American pro soccer player Megan Rapinoe called the ruling “trash”, and agreed that the rules regarding cannabis were “outdated” on Twitter.
“There is no need for Sha’Carri to apologize,” New York congressman Jamaal Brown voiced. He stated that the “archaic rules for a substance that is fully legal in 19 states plus DC,” should be dropped and that cannabis should be legalized at a federal level in the US. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey also disagreed with the ruling, saying he found it devastating and wrong that Richardson’s “dreams are being crushed over a substance that should be legal across the country.”
Seth Rogen commented that the implications of cannabis being a “problematic “drug” is rooted in racism.” He found it “insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred,” and that Team USA should be ashamed of their reasoning. Actress Gabrielle Union also spoke up in support of Richardson, stating that while cannabis was good for many things “running faster isn’t one of them.”
Although it is unsure whether or not Richardson will be running in the Tokyo Olympics this year, it is clear that she is staying focused and determined. When asked about the possibility of competing in a relay race this year, Richardson simply said she would be grateful, but if not she would just focus on herself instead. She went on to make sure it was known that this would not be the end of her Olympic dreams.
“This is just one Games. I’m 21, I’m very young… I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in and I have plenty of talent that backs me up, because everything I do comes from me naturally.” She added, “This incident was about marijuana, so after my sanction is up I’ll be back and able to compete, and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”