There’s no one to blame for Sha’Carri Richardson’s failed Olympics drug test other than Sha’Carri Richardson.
It’s not as if she’s trying. The 21-year-old sprinter from Louisiana State University has completely owned her mistake, made no excuses about her actions, and willingly accepted a one-month suspension that disqualified her from competing in the 100-meter relay at the Tokyo Olympics later this month.
“I just want to take responsibility for my actions,” she said on the Today show last week. “I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do, [what] I’m allowed not to do, and I still made that decision. I’m not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case.”
Richardson failed her drug test because she used marijuana (which is legal in Oregon) to calm herself after finding out from a reporter her biological mother had died. As the Washington Post’s Jerry Brewer wrote, Richardson was “guilty of coping, not doping.”
The thing is, she could’ve still competed for the red, white, and blue. Richardson’s suspension will end prior to the 4x100 meter relay on Aug. 6, and all USA Track & Field (USATF) had to do was name her to the team. As the fastest woman in America, she certainly could have helped the team in its quest for a gold medal, and she was certainly on track to becoming a global sensation.
Instead, Team USA doubled down on punishing Richardson. Yes, the team offered her some bland sympathy via statement and called on a rule change to remove cannabis from the list of banned substances. But when it came down to what really matters, USA Track & Field placed the boot on Richardson’s ankle.
“It would be detrimental to the integrity of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track & Field if USATF amended its policies following competition, only weeks before the Olympic Games,” USATF’s statement read. “All USATF athletes are equally aware of and must adhere to the current anti-doping code, and our credibility as the National Governing Body would be lost if rules were only enforced under certain circumstances.”
Considering the historical impact of harsh marijuana laws on Black and brown people in America, having one of our brightest rising stars sidelined as a result of using a legal product is infuriating. We wouldn’t be talking about this if she had gone to a doctor and gotten a Prozac subscription. Yet here we are.
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