Sha’Carri Richardson, a sprinter for Team USA, will miss the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana earlier last week.
Richardson became an immediate star and gold medal favorite after winning the women's 100-meter dash at the U.S track and field trials in Portland Oregon in stunning fashion. Her positive test now immediately invalidates her time, and takes her out of the Olympic 100-meter women's race.
Soon after, Richardson spoke about the situation herself, explaining her story, and what prompted her positive test. She had recently found out about the death of her mother from a reporter during an interview and the effect it had on her was to be expected of any person.
"I know what I did, I know what I'm supposed to do and I still made that decision," Richardson said. "I'm not making an excuse or looking for empathy in my case. However, being in that position in my life, finding out something like that ... Dealing with the relationship I have with my mother, that definitely was a very heavy topic on me," Richardson said on the Today show.
Her 30-day suspension was followed by a wave of support and criticism. President Joe Biden even spoke out, saying he’s “proud” of the way she has taken responsibility for her actions, but also pointing out the rules are the rules, but maybe those rules should change.
Biden's comments on Richardson’s 30-day suspension from the Olympic games shed light on one of the biggest takeaways from this situation. The World Anti-Doping Agency, and the Olympics strict and questionable anti-doping rules need to be changed immediately.
Their in-competition rules on drugs do not allow the use of any banned substance unless an athlete has an approved therapeutic use exemption. The use of any listed drug can result in an immediate suspension, including the use of Marijuana which is considered a performance-enhancing drug.
It has long been questioned whether or not weed truly is a performance-enhancing drug. As more research is done, many other professional leagues are concluding that marijuana is not considered one.
The MLB completely removed marijuana from its list of banned substances in 2019, according to NBC sports. The NBA followed this suit by removing marijuana from their list of drugs in random testing, with the NFL no longer suspending players for positive tests.
The restriction as a whole is harsh and misplaced, but it has also been questioned how it is enforced. A lot of comparisons have been made between Sha’Carri and Michael Phelps' punishments for marijuana use.
In 2009, a picture of Phelps smoking a bong surfaced online, and he even confirmed the picture's authenticity at the time. The major difference between Richardson and Phelps is the picture surfaced 9 months after the Olympics, and 5 months before the world championships. Because of this, Phelps never actually tested positive.
Even so, it must be asked why Phelps was never tested before the world championships just five months after the incident, and Olympic greats like Flo Jo-Florence Joyner frequently received random drug tests.
The questions that come from this suspension are all valid, and these rules must be made to tailor the life we live today, where 18 states allow recreational marijuana use, including the state Richardson was in.
Richardson was left off of the 4x100 relay team when the rosters for Team USA were announced Tuesday, meaning she will miss the Tokyo Olympics.