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Sha’Carri Richardson is the latest victim of outdated marijuana regulations

Sha’Carri Richardson is the latest victim of outdated marijuana regulations

Sha’Carri Richardson is the latest victim of outdated marijuana regulations
July 15
14:00 2021

When the 2020 Olympics commences in Tokyo later this month, it will do so without one of the fastest athletes in history.

In an announcement that commanded national attention, sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended one month by the Olympic committee. Richardson, who ran the sixth fastest women’s 100 meter dash of all time at 10.72 seconds in April, was suspended for smoking marijuana and subsequently failing her drug test.

By her own admission in an interview with ESPN, Richardson cited smoking marijuana as means of helping cope with the recent passing of her mother. Richardson said she smoked in Oregon, where recreational marijuana use has been legal for five years but recognizes what she did was against Olympic committee regulations.

Although the quick response and accountability from Richardson are commendable, she should not have been under such heavy scrutiny to begin with. There was no need to treat her as if she committed a crime.

Richardson, 21, was understandably emotional and vulnerable after losing her mother. Like a large subset of adult Americans, she smoked to help ease her mind. For her to be treated like a criminal as a result is wildly excessive. 

In regards to the Olympics, the treatment is equally unwarranted. Despite rumors, there has been no substantial scientific evidence that supports the claim that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug

Aside from soothing anxiety, marijuana does not have any effects that would give a competitor an unfair advantage

Last year both the NFL and NHL agreed players who test positive for cannabis would not be suspended. MLB players can use the drug without sanction, and last year the NBA suspended cannabis testing.  

With many prominent sports leagues lightening or omitting weed-related punishment, it is rather surprising to see the Olympics enforce the rule so harshly. 

If the top athletes are permitted to smoke weed without fear of unfair advantage, I find it difficult to explain why the same logic does not apply at Olympic events.

Of the reasons listed as to why marijuana use is banned from Olympic competitors, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) cites that weed use “poses a health risk to the athlete, can enhance performance and violates the spirit of the sport.”

These would be much more grounded arguments if the other sports were in agreement with its effects, which they are clearly not. 

Also, if the committee is focused on banning substances that are bad for the athlete’s health and image, why aren’t substances like cigarettes and alcohol forbidden? Both lead to far more deaths per year than marijuana and corrode the body well before fully digesting it. Yet, Olympic competitors are free to consume as much of them as they please without “violating the spirit of the sport” or “posing a health risk.”

Richardson has been stripped of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete over the mere assumption that marijuana could somehow enhance her performance. 

It is a shame, really — not just for her but for fans of the sport. Her presence will be sorely missed when the 100-meter dash kicks off in Tokyo. When the race concludes, people will be left wondering how things would have played out if she were competing. 

Her suspension has sparked a debate on where society stands on marijuana use. So far, it seems the world is becoming more nonchalant about its usage. Hopefully, the Olympic committee begins to mirror that stance.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Jalyn Smoot

Jalyn Smoot

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