After a brief period of speculation and controversy, it is now official. Sha’Carri Richardson’s positive marijuana test has cost her the opportunity to compete at the Olympics; she will not appear in any races in Tokyo.
On Tuesday, USA Track and Field released its Olympic roster, and Richardson’s name did not appear on the list. Her positive test occurred directly following her 100-meter Olympic Trials win, punishing her with a month-long suspension. However, her suspension would have come to an end before the Olympic relay event, so she still could have been selected for the 4×100 meter relay team. Despite this, USATF did not select Richardson for this event, so she will no longer travel to Tokyo.
In a statement, USATF wrote:
“While our heartfelt understanding lies with Sha’Carri, we must also maintain fairness for all of the athletes who attempted to realize their dreams by securing a place on the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team.”
However, USATF also called for a reevaluation of and possible rewriting of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s rules related to marijuana since it is not a performance-enhancing drug.
Richardson said she resorted to smoking marijuana as a coping mechanism for hearing about the death of her biological mother.
“I know I can’t hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain,” she said.
Despite dealing with this tremendous loss and the loss of the chance to compete in the Olympics, Richardson has responded with incredible grace and poise.
“This is just one (Olympic) Games,” she said. “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. No steroid, no anything. 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.”
She also took full responsibility for her actions, apologizing to friends, family, and fans for failing to meet their expectations and for letting them down. Following the announcement of her positive test and the USATF’s refusal to allow her to compete in the relay, Richardson received an outpouring of love on social media, with athletes and celebrities like Patrick Mahomes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sydney Leroux, Dwayne Wade, Megan Rapinoe, Gabrielle Union, and Chris Paul expressing their support for her.
Richardson’s situation has sparked a huge debate about the strict ban of marijuana use in the Olympics, as it is not a performance-enhancing drug at all; if anything, it is a performance inhibitor. 18 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use, including the state Richardson utilized it in. Many professional leagues like the NHL, NFL, and NBA, have recognized this, immensely reducing the enforcement of marijuana rules and acknowledging that the drug does not enhance performance. However, the Olympics still test extensively for and punish those who use the drug.
No matter how controversial this decision was, one thing is for sure. The Olympics will not be the same without Sha’Carri Richardson. The athlete said it best herself.
“This’ll be the last time the Olympics don’t see Sha’Carri Richardson. And this’ll be the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with a gold medal in the 100.”