Sha’Carri Richardson, athletics and marijuana

Tokyo Olympics

sha'carri richardsonThe 30-day suspension of American Sha’Carri Richardson for a positive marijuana test means she is barred from competing in the women’s 100-meter dash at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. But as I’ve read reactions across the board, I’ve concluded that her suspension is stupid.

From the Denver Post: She should have nothing to apologize for. “There is only one reason why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should exist: To ensure athletes’ success on the international stage is determined more by pure athletic ability than who they employ as their pharmacist. Which is why [the suspension] makes absolutely zero sense.

“Back in 2011, a WADA-sponsored paper determined marijuana was a performance-enhancing drug, which might hold more water… if Richardson were a competitive eater or gamer.

A ‘substance of abuse’

“Now a decade later, marijuana’s inclusion on WADA’s list of banned substances is tied to its classification as a ‘substance of abuse.’ Of course, that bit of paternal moralizing has nothing to do with ensuring Richardson doesn’t have an unfair advantage on the track.

“Another unfortunate and devastating development? That Richardson felt compelled to appear on NBC’s TODAY show to apologize for her marijuana use and explain how it was tied to her own personal attempts to cope with her [biological] mother’s death.”

As she told NBC: “To hear that information coming from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering. It was definitely nerve-shocking. It was just like, who are you to tell me that? No offense against him at all. He was just doing his job. But definitely, that sent me into a state of mind, a state of emotional panic.

“I still have to go out and put out a performance for my dream, go out there and still compete. From there, just blinded by emotions, just blinded by hurting. I knew I couldn’t hide myself. In some type of way, I was just trying to hide my pain.”

Boston wouldn’t ban her

From the Boston Globe: Sha’Carri Richardson isn’t a cheater. She’s human. And she got caught up in a system that might need to change.

“With her newly tinted orange hair trailing behind her like flames, she captured our hearts not only with her performance on the track, but with her moving story off it, seen in the emotional hug she climbed into the stands to share with her grandmother.

“As we know now, it wasn’t any sort of steroid or performance-enhancer that was found in Richardson’s test sample. It was marijuana, a drug that is legal in Oregon, where the trials were held, continues to be legalized in states across the country…

“The mental health of athletes is a similarly heavy topic, one that has gained more and more public attention in recent years, so much so it was listed by both USOPC chairperson Susanne Lyons and chief executive Sarah Hirshland as one of the organization’s top priorities in a recent teleconference with reporters. As Hirshland said, the emphasis on mental health needs isn’t just important for Olympians on their watch, but ‘for society writ large.’

Coincidentally, from the National Memo: “Justice Clarence Thomas Says Federal Laws Against Marijuana No Longer Needed.” Clarence Thomas!

According to the Washington Post, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list published on Jan. 1 lists the chemical compound found in marijuana, THC, next to cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy, and heroin as a substance of abuse and that the rule book says they are considered substances of abuse because they “are frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport.”

The rules

A right-wing rag complained, in that eye-rolling way, that AOC said that Richardson’s suspension was “racist.” I do find this MoveOn piece interesting. “Elite Black women Olympic athletes undergo exceptional levels of scrutiny, from Simone Biles’ recent record-breaking double pike vault which received artificially suppressed scores despite its difficulty to Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two Namibian runners who won’t be permitted to run in their main events because of their naturally high testosterone levels. And we learned the Olympics decided to ban swim caps designed for the hair of Black swimmers.

Even International Olympic Committee member and a founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency Dick Pound thinks this marijuana ban needs to go, saying, “One of these days, we should probably either take it off the list entirely or say it’s there but the minimum sanction should be something like a warning, so you’re not losing any period of eligibility.” So why is it being enforced now?

Patchwork quilt

In my latter days working as a librarian, the Small Business Administration and by extension SBDCs were, for a relatively brief time, banned from helping any business that was dealing with cannabis. This included people growing hemp for non-consumable purposes. It was, fortunately, rescinded, because it was an inane policy.

The fact that marijuana is treated as though it were heroin at the federal level is crazy. To that end, I support the cannabis banking bill passed by the House in 2021.
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“Banks have generally been unwilling to do business with companies that sell marijuana or related products, fearing they could run afoul of federal laws.

“That has left companies in the marijuana industry with few options, including relying on just a handful of small financial institutions or doing business in cash. The American Bankers Association has lobbied aggressively for the ‘SAFE Banking Act’ bill.”