Despite winning first place at the 100-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic trials, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson has been officially suspended for testing positive for the marijuana, which she “used to cope with her mother’s death”. This means now she will not be competing in the 2021 Olympics.
According to Reuters “Cannabis is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but if athletes can prove that their ingestion of the substance was unrelated to sports performance then a suspension of three months rather than the usual four years is imposed.”
“If an athlete is willing to undertake an approved treatment programme in collaboration with their national anti-doping body then the ban can be reduced to one month.”
Since her suspension, controversy has emerged:
- Aside from personal beliefs, current medical data remains unclear how smoking can be performance enhancing for a sprinter, should that be their decision—off the field.
- In contrast, rules created by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are set in place for safety, fairness, and apply to all Olympic athletes, which all athletes are fully aware must be followed.
The White House has made note of this notable disqualification, in a statement Jen Psaki said
“We certainly have to respect the role of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the U.S. Olympic Committee and the decisions they make, but it is sad, and we do wish her luck and look forward to seeing her running, running as the fastest woman in the world, and for years to come.”
USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement “While the U.S. government has a seat at the table to provide feedback, and will continue to speak up for athletes, we are ultimately bound to the WADA rules,” “This is true even in sad and tough cases like this one, where we might take a different approach if the choice was ours to make.”
Should she have been suspended for using marijuana in the privacy of her home?
According to the WADA, yes. Marijuana is classified as a substance “prohibited at all times”. This includes “outside of the context of the sport”.
The regulation of alcohol for United States Olympic Committee states “There is NO BENEFICIAL EFFECT of alcohol on sport performance. It is best to avoid alcohol within 48 hours of training or competition,” the policy continues “be smart and sensible if you decide to drink”
Should marijuana be a “prohibited at all times” substance, while alcohol is not? Sha’Carri Richardson is responsible for reopening that discussion.
One thing that wasn’t suspended was her positivity and her American spirit. Fans haven’t seen the last of her, and we can hope to see her back again representing our country.