The Only Good Thing to Come Out of Sha'Carri Richardson's Olympics Ordeal?
The World Athletics President said the time has come to consider letting athletes use cannabis.
American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, for all practical purposes, is the world’s fastest woman. She finished first at the United States track and field Olympic trials last month in the 100 meter sprint with a time of just 10.87 seconds. Favored to win gold at this month’s Summer Games in Tokyo, Richardson seemed on her way to achieving a goal that most athletes can only dream of.
Just days before her flight to Japan, Richardson’s phone rang. She picked it up and received heartbreaking news. The U.S. Track and Field team had banned her from representing her country – not because she tested positive for steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, but because her blood had THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, in it.
Richardson said she used the plant to cope with depression after the death of her biological mother. She consumed the plant in Oregon, where cannabis is legal.
“People don’t understand what it’s like to have to go in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain,” Richardson told the Today Show after being banned. “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
Change on the horizon?
Now, without one of the world’s best runners at the Olympics, the World Athletics President said the time has come to consider letting athletes use cannabis.
“It should be (reviewed),” said Sebastian Coe, who heads the international governing body for track and field, cross country running, road running, racewalking, mountain running, and ultra running. “It’s sensible, as nothing is set in tablets of stone.”
“I am sorry for her,” Coe added. “It is a loss to the competition, that we have lost an outstanding talent.”
According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a substance must meet two of three criteria to be banned: Either it poses a health risk to athletes, it has the potential to enhance performance or it violates the “spirit of sport.” The World Anti-Doping Agency said in the wake of Richardson’s positive test that it hasn’t taken THC off the list because cannabis meets at least two of the three criteria.
The 2021 World Anti-Doping Code still classifies THC as a “Substance of Abuse” because it’s regularly used in outside the context of sport.