Sha’Carri Richardson, Gold Medal Favorite

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Christa Simmons

Sha'Carri Richardson, Gold Medal Favorite

Should Sha’Carri Richardson, Gold Medal Favorite, Be Suspended Following Positive Marijuana Test

American Olympic sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson will miss the 2020-2021 Olympic games due to a positive marijuana test.

Twenty-one year old Sha’Carri was a crowd favorite to win a gold medal at this year’s Tokyo this year, but sadly that dream is screeching to a halt following the Olympic runner’s positive marijuana test at the field trials in Oregon last month.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency released her positive results on June 25th along with news that Richardson had accepted a 30-day suspension beginning June 28th. While this may have left her clear to run in the 4X100 meter relay at a later stage of the games, the coaches involved in selecting athletes to compete on the relay squad had already chosen other candidates by the time her test became public.

As expected, Sha’Carri was not happy about the news, revealing in an interview with NBC that she used marijuana as a method to cope with the unexpected death of her mother that occurred while she was competing in Oregon for a spot in the Olympics. Sha’carri also noted that she only learned of her mother’s death from a reporter tasked with interviewing her. This leads us to the topic of marijuana use in sports.

The Marijuana/Sports Debate

Following news of this series of events going public, marijuana legalization advocates are now urging sports authorities to re-evaluate certain association policies. This has since sparked a heated debate regarding marijuana sports policies in the United States and nearby territories.

Deputy Director of the non-profit organization the Marijuana Policy Project, Matthew Schweich, had a lot to say about the subject:

“America is the birthplace of harsh cannabis policies and like many things we exported it around the world. There’s a lot that needs to be undone,” Schweich noted during an interview with ABC news.

He went on to accuse organizational reasoning of being hypocritical, stating that alcohol and nicotine are still allowed under WADA guidelines even though the effect on the body is nearly identical to that of marijuana.

“The World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] is supposed to stop doping,” Schweich elaborated, “Sha’Carri Richardson’s marijuana use has nothing to do with doping.”

Schweich then responded to criticisms of his claim by adding that the WADA’s research that established cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug was questionable at best, as many studies in recent years proved the exact opposite. In fact, one study from 2018 published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine definitively found “no evidence for cannabis use as a performance-enhancing drug.”

Lawmakers Taking Action

Following the string of inquiries into the validity of Richardson’s suspension, eighteen congressional lawmakers signed a letter requesting that athletic policyholders change their policy to prevent unjust suspensions such as this one from happening again.

Representative Barbara Lee tweeted about this letter, stating “[The US Anti-Doping Agency] and [the WADA]’s cannabis policies are outdated, restrictive and rooted in our nation’s racist War on Drugs. Today, [Representative Earl Blumenauer] and I called for an end to this harmful and discriminatory rule.”

The letter included the following:

“We write to oppose the inclusion of cannabis as a prohibited substance within the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) athletic code. Recently, U.S sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the women’s 100-meter race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for her prior cannabis usage off the track. As a result, she was suspended for one month and was not included on the U.S Olympic team roster. This cannabis ban is outdated and restrictive.”

The letter went on to point out that marijuana use is currently legal in 36 states and 4 US territories, including the location where the test took place (Oregon).

Travis Tygart, CEO of the USADA, publicly issued his response:

“Regarding the way in which THC positives are handled, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sets the rules for the world that all countries—including the United States—have to follow. 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.”

He went on to say:

“…Inclusion of Cannabinoids, including marijuana, on the Prohibited List has been vigorously debated since WADA’s inception back in 2003. Many now support it being removed since the list should be primarily about performance-enhancing substances and because marijuana is widely available in certain countries. However, many also agree from a sport health and safety standpoint that it should remain on the list to prevent possible impairment and serious injuries during competition.

“For example, we don’t want an impaired cyclist speeding at 70 miles per hour in a group of other cyclists down a mountain in the Tour de France or a similarly impaired snowboarder risking injuries on a half-pipe at the Olympics.”

Tygart then ended the letter with the following sentiment:

“Our hope is that sport and society focus on the core mental health issue going forward, which is how we find ways to help athletes with their pressures and traumas in a way where they do not feel they need to take a risk that may jeopardize their ability to compete and do what they love.”

Travis Tygart’s response certainly left the issue of cannabis inclusion in the WADA’s list of prohibited substances as unclear at best, leaving many with a burning question:

Is it time for a change?

This is a topic that will be up for debate for a while…. In the meantime, if you’re asking “where to find weed in DC?” Be sure to contact Sugar Ray’s DC for your cannabis needs.