Sports | July 2, 2021 3:45 pm

One of America’s Best Athletes Was Barred From the Olympics for Smoking Weed in 2021

Her suspension ends in time for her to compete in relays

Sha’Carri Richardson
Sha'Carri Richardson competes in the Women's 100 Meter final on day 2 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 19, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, Sha’Carri Richardson finished first in the Olympic trials for the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.86 seconds. For outside observers, this was exciting news, heralding an excellent performance by one of America’s top athletes. Things have changed rapidly in the last day, with sports reporter Tyler Dragon noting on Thursday night that Richardson had failed a drug test.

Friday morning brought confirmation — Richardson had indeed tested “positive for a chemical found in marijuana,” according to the Associated Press’s report. Her 30-day suspension ends on July 27, which means that she could still compete in the women’s relays; she will, however, be unable to compete in the 100-meter dash.

According to the AP’s report, Richardson admitted to smoking weed after learning about the death of her biological mother. As a reminder, marijuana is now legal in a growing number of states, and has been decriminalized in even more. The same is true around the globe, where several countries have legalized weed for recreational use and even more have decriminalized it.

The US Anti-Doping Agency continues to bar marijuana use, though athletes using CBD is — according to the agency’s website — fine. This is in sync with a global policy from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which permits 30-day suspensions if the athlete in question “can establish that the use of a substance of abuse was out-of-competition and unrelated to sport performance.”

Even so, it’s alarming to see that the WADA’s policies don’t take into account something that’s legal across much of the globe. You wouldn’t penalize an athlete for drinking a glass of wine or beer — and, including many states around the country (including the one where Richardson competed to secure her place in the Tokyo Olympics), there’s no legal difference between that and ingesting weed.