Sha’Carri Richardson, the superstar-in-waiting sprinter who pretty much single-handedly dragged U.S. track and field Olympic qualifying into must-watch territory, has been suspended for a month after the US Anti-Doping Agency discovered via testing that she had some weed in her system. Richardson’s qualifying performances have now been wiped out, which means that she is all but certain to miss her individual events at the Tokyo Olympics. For weed! For having enjoyed a non-performance-enhancing substance that even fucking Montana has decriminalized.
Turns out USADA classifies THC as something called a “Substance of Abuse.” It shares this classification with cocaine, heroin, and MDMA, only one of which could ever be seriously considered performance-enhancing, unless the performance being measured is dozing off or jaw-clenching. For reasons passing understanding, these four substances are treated as essentially interchangeable, for enforcement purposes:
The 2021 World Anti-Doping Code newly classifies THC as a “Substance of Abuse” because it is frequently used in society outside the context of sport. If an athlete who tests positive for a Substance of Abuse establishes that their use of the substance occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, the athlete will receive a three-month sanction. However, if the athlete satisfactorily completes a Substance of Abuse treatment program approved by USADA, the sanction may be further reduced to one month.
Richardson’s period of ineligibility was reduced to one month because her use of cannabis occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, and because she successfully completed a counseling program regarding her use of cannabis.USADA
So a 21-year-old world class athlete has to complete a treatment program in order to avoid a three-month “sanction” by an organization expecting to be taken seriously with the word “doping” in its name, for smoking weed. Richardson told the Today show Friday morning that she’d used marijuana while in Oregon for trials last month after learning from a reporter about the sudden death of her biological mother. USADA CEO Travis Tygart, in announcing Richardson’s suspension, said that he hopes Richardson’s apology—just to be clear, for using weed in a time of emotional trauma—”will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions.”
Richardson’s suspension ends July 28, two days before the start of Olympic track and field events, but because the punishment disqualifies her results from trials, she has already been replaced on the U.S. roster by fourth-place finisher Jenna Prandini. She might still be able to compete in the 4×100 relay, which has less rigidly formal procedures for selection, and leaves open two spots for runners chosen by USA Track and Field.