Should Sha’Carri Richardson have been disqualified from Olympics for marijuana use?
- Sha’Carri Richardson is known for winning the 100-meter dash in 10.86 seconds and qualified as a potential gold-metal runner up in the 2021 Olympics.
- On Friday, July 2, 2021, Richardson accepted a one-month suspension that disqualified her from the Olympics and she “forfeit any medals, points, and prizes.” She was put on suspension following a positive test for THC after her biological mother’s death.
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied to the decision calling for the drug rules to be reviewed saying, “We know the rules are where they are. Maybe we should take another look at them.”
- According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), THC is a prohibited drug. Its rules are upheld in the Olympics as well.
- The 2021 Olympics are taking place in Tokyo, Japan, airing from July 23-August 8.
- In the 2016 Olympics, there were about 10,000 athletes competing for about 5,000 medals.
It's unfortunate Sha'Carri Richardson chose to use marijuana while still preparing for the Olympic trials; the USA Track & Field is right to deny her a place on the US Olympic team. No matter that Richardson is a resident of Oregon, where recreational marijuana use is legal, she knew the restrictions associated with the games and chose to use anyway. Granted, her reason for doing so, finding out about the death of her biological mother, is both sad and understandable. In spite of the difficult circumstances, the Olympic Committee can't start making exceptions for athletes for 'simple' violations like pot without also being asked to start making them for other banned substances.
Olympians are respected the world over, and Richardson no doubt still has a long and hopefully successful track career in her future. Girls across the country and around the world will know her name and aspire to be like her. If she were to be allowed to compete in spite of using the controversial and banned substance, it would send the wrong message to the young women for whom she's a role model.
The majority of Americans now see marijuana use as something that should be legal nationwide. The same cannot be said for the majority of other countries, however, and many of those countries also participate in the Olympics. The American viewpoint of acceptance cannot be forced onto the international stage, thereby putting other countries and the IOC in a difficult position. No matter that pot is not 'performance-enhancing,' it does arguably 'violate the spirit' of sport. It's a banned substance, and Sha'Carri is right to accept her unfortunate fate as a result of her decision.
Although we don't know all of Sha'Carri Richardson's life and health circumstances, she told the hosts of the TODAY Show she was using cannabis to cope with her mother's death. The news of her mother's death apparently reached her through a reporter at the trial event, which was particularly difficult. Although cannabis, both natural and synthetic, is on the list of banned substances, the World Anti-Doping Agency allows 'therapeutic use exemptions' for certain other drugs that are used to 'treat illnesses or conditions.' There is no indication that she was using it to enhance performance. As Secular Talk host Kyle Kulinski pointed out, the rules about such substances are rather arbitrary in any case. Some substances that could be considered to enhance or impair one's performance more than cannabis are not against the rules.
As an example, it is worth noting that there is no policy prohibiting Olympic athletes from consuming alcohol. Cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use in Oregon, where the Olympic trials took place, which should put it in roughly the same category as alcohol, regardless of whether Richardson was using it medically or not. While the USA Track and Field team said that they would not choose Richardson to compete in any Olympic events in order to 'maintain fairness,' their statement also said that the organization 'fully agrees that the merit of the World Anti-Doping Agency rules related to THC should be reevaluated.'