By Emily Ledger
Last week, it was announced that the US superstar sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who has become something of an icon for her record-breaking speed as well as bright hairstyles and super long fingernails, had tested positive for cannabis in a routine drug test during the US trials. It has since been confirmed that the sprinter will face a 30-day ban and miss the 100-meter event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Over the weekend, a number of prominent figures, including Richardson herself, have addressed the ban with many coming out in support of the athlete.
President Joe Biden, whose presidential campaign included promises of federal cannabis reforms in the country stated: “The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in.
“Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules.”
President Biden was not the only politician to comment on the ban, with popular Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling on the Usada (United States Anti-Doping Agency) to overturn the suspension to “strike a blow for civil liberties.
Following the news on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy. The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use.”
Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the former President, Donald Trump, also tweeted in support of Sha’Carri Richardson, stating, “Let her compete, I’m pretty damn sure weed has never made anyone faster.”
Ms. Richardson has also addressed the ban herself over the weekend in an interview with NBC, revealing that she had used cannabis to help cope with the grief of the death of her biological mother earlier this year.
Richardson also stated: “I want to take responsibility for my actions, I know what I did and what I’m not supposed to do.
“Everything I do comes naturally. There will never be a steroid attached to the name Sha’Carri Richardson. It was marijuana. Don’t judge me because I am human.”
The Usada revealed that it had decided to reduce the typical three-month ban for cannabis use to one month in the case as it was proven that Richardson had used cannabis outside of competition time and had successfully completed a counselling programme.
However, there are still many who believe that the ban should be overturned completely and that the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) should remove cannabis from its list of banned substances.
Seth Rogen, famous actor, writer, and cannabis user and advocate tweeted in support of Richardson: “‘It’s insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred. It’s something they should be ashamed of. Also if weed made you fast, I’d be FloJo”, jokingly referring to Florence ‘Flo-Jo’ Joyner, who remains the fastest woman in the world after setting records in 1988.
The notion that weed is a problematic “drug” is rooted in racism. It’s insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred. It’s something they should be ashamed of. Also if weed made you fast, I’d be FloJo. https://t.co/swDLNoVcV3
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) July 2, 2021
Selma Blair also came to the defence of Richardson, stating on Twitter: “Marijuana is not a performance enhancing drug. This is wrong and a shame. I am so sorry. Champ. You.”
While Richardson’s ban is scheduled to end two days before the women’s 100-meter event in Tokyo, the failed drugs test means that her Olympic qualifying results from the Oregon trials have been discarded. Automatic places for the event are offered to the first three qualified athletes in the trials.
Jenna Prandini, who finished fourth in the 100-metre sprint that Richardson had won in the trials in Oregon, is expected to take her place at the event.
There is, however, still a chance that Richardson could compete in the 4×100-meter relay event at the Tokyo Olympics. When asked about the possibility, Richardson responded: “I’m just putting all my time and energy into taking care of myself. If I’m allowed to compete I am grateful but I’m going to focus on myself. To my fans, family and haters, I apologise. I know I represent a community that shows great love and I failed you.”
“This is just one games. I’m 21. I’m very young,” she continued. “I have plenty of games left in me to compete in, and I have plenty of talent that backs me up.”