The United States has lost one of its best athletes heading into the Tokyo Games , which will be held between July 23 and August 8. Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who at 21 was expected to star in the 400m and 100m competitions, will not travel to Asia after being suspended after testing positive for marijuana doping. The punishment has caused a strong controversy in the United States, a country where weed is legal for recreational use in 19 states and is even a million-dollar industry in places like Oregon, where Richardson took gold in the June qualifiers.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency announced on Friday the positive result of Richardson, who had accepted a month of suspension that began on June 28. “The situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved,” the United States Track and Field Team said after the news was released. The test took away from the athlete the gold won in qualifying in Oregon, where she registered first place with a time of 10.86s. The 100-meter competition began in Tokyo on July 30, two days after Richardson’s punishment was lifted. However, doping canceled his direct pass to the test.
“I’m human,” was Richardson’s response after his suspension was made official. On Friday, on television, the athlete said on NBC that she had used the prohibited substance as a way to cope with the death of her biological mother, information that came to her from a journalist a few days before the race. “I went into a state of emotional panic,” explained the athlete, who was raised by her grandmother. He also apologized to fans who were disappointed. The news caused an instant stir on social media. “I’m sorry I won’t be able to be your Olympic champion this year, but I promise to be your world champion next,” the Dallas sprinter wrote on Twitter, setting the goal at the World Cup in Eugene, Oregon, in July 2022.
Until this Tuesday there were still minimal chances that the sprinter would be present in Tokyo as part of the US team relays, a competition that was going to take place after the punishment was lifted. The final blow came on Tuesday with the presentation of the athletics team, where his name did not appear among the two athletes who could complete the picture. “We feel great empathy for Sha’Carri Richardson for the extenuating circumstances and we applaud her responsibility,” the team announced this afternoon, adding that it will offer all support to the athlete “on and off the slopes. Richardson’s representative, however, has told The New York Times that the athlete did not ask to be included in the relays and that she preferred to focus on the future.
The Richardson case has sparked a heated debate about marijuana and sports throughout society. “There will never be steroids related to Sha’Carri Richardson’s name. The charge and the situation was for marijuana, ”said the sprinter, drawing a line with other high-profile doping cases that have ended careers and reputations. “The rules are clear, but this breaks the heart,” said Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency on Friday. The head of the agency explained that the sprinter’s punishment was reduced because the use of the prohibited substance was not in competition or to improve performance on the track. Nike, the 21-year-old’s sports sponsor, backed her and applauded her responsibility in acknowledging the mistake.
Even President Joe Biden himself came to pronounce on the controversy. “The rules are the rules,” said the president, who later qualified with a: “If these rules must be maintained is a different matter, but the rules are the rules.” The debate, in which actors such as Seth Rogen, athletes such as basketball player Dwyane Wade and politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez participated through social networks, who rejected the punishment. Marijuana, which only remains completely illegal in seven states, remains in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s catalog of prohibited drugs. “All members of the athletics team are aware that they must adhere to current codes and our credibility as a governing body would be lost if we only punished special circumstances”, The US team said on Tuesday, which will begin activities on July 30 in the Japanese capital. The group, however, calls for the world agency to “re-evaluate” marijuana prohibition, as the United States has done with its laws for 20 years. Meanwhile, Richardson will have to wait to compete in a Games for the first time.