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.”

Information with a Bun and the Sexy Librarian trope

“To move in public spaces and do their jobs, librarians — along with schoolteachers and nurses — had to wrap themselves in an aura of absolute respectability. “

pretty-librarian-working-on--11982029My blog in the Times Union local newspaper, with content, often reprinted from this blog, or noting stuff of primarily local interest, is called Information Without the Bun. Came up with this title in about five minutes when the blog coordinator, Michael Huber, insisted on a name. The title was to evoke two ideas: 1) having the meat without a hamburger bun, and 2) the antithesis of the stuffy, usually female, librarian that shushed people all the time.

Recently, I saw Dustbury link to an interesting article called Unpacking an Erotic Icon: The Sexy Librarian, which got me thinking about that trope. In linking to the article, Dustbury proclaimed: “I thought it was because she was, um, smart.” Yeah, me, too; I find smart women almost inherently sexy. I tend to root for the good female JEOPARDY! players when I watch the show.

The article by Dustin (Oneman) delves a bit deeper:

While the role of librarian has existed for a good long while… the modern librarian, the modern female librarian, dates back to the late 19th century and specifically back to Melvil Dewey, he of the decimal system that bears his name. Dewey was a strong advocate for the use of women as librarians, not out of any sense of gender justice but because, as proprietor of a company that sold a system of receiving, cataloguing, shelving, finding, and checking out books that promised to transform the library into a hyper-efficient book-lending machine, he felt that men would chafe under the monotony of the job. Women, he felt, were ideally suited to the mindless task of working in a modern, Dewey-ized library.

Bringing women into public life in the late 19th and early 20th century was not, however, without challenges. Women who left the domestic sphere were branded disreputable, their bodies assumed to be offered up to the (male) public. Actors, dancers, mill workers, field hands — all took on the aura of the prostitute…

To move in public spaces and do their jobs, librarians — along with schoolteachers and nurses — had to wrap themselves in an aura of absolute respectability. Unlike factory workers, actresses, store clerks, secretaries, and farm workers, who dwelled in the working classes or in the bohemian demimonde of the arts, librarians, nurses, and schoolteachers moved among the middle and upper classes. No hint of disrepute could be endured, and their respectability was secured by thoroughly de-sexing themselves through clothing, behavior, and hairstyle.

Particularly hairstyle.

Thus, the female librarian (and nurse, and schoolteacher) with a bun was a symbol of chastity, respectability. It was, I’m guessing, necessary to be taken seriously in the job they did. Because men are, well, like men often are.

The question remains, though, of why these icons have survived even as the reality of these professions has changed radically, shedding the desexualizing camouflage as women have gained more acceptance in the public sphere…

But the sexy librarian is still very much with us. She exists in movies, TV shows, commercials, porn, adult magazines, erotica, and the fevered imagination of men who date librarians. She quite often gets in the way of real librarians doing their jobs.

I DO know female librarians who have talked about embracing the sexy librarian trope, though, in a way to counteract the bun lady trope because it’s difficult for patrons to take bun lady seriously. And control of the sexy image is, in its own way, empowering to them.

Dustin, I imagine, would disagree:

In the end, the icon of the sexy librarian is about disempowering women who dare not only to move through public spaces but to exercise power, however limited (through the iconic librarian’s iconic “shhhh!”), by unveiling and conquering the sexual being hidden beneath her unassuming exterior. The image of the sexy librarian reminds us that, regardless of their appearance or accomplishments, women are first and foremost sexual objects. And that’s pretty much business as usual for American masculinity.

Hmm. So this gets me to wondering whether the title Information Without a Bun was an inadvertent sexist title. (I HAVE been accused of thinking too much on occasion.)

Black girls’ hair

In Whoopi Goldberg’s Broadway Show from the mid-1980s, she wore a yellow shirt or sweater over her head, and talked about her being a kid pretending to have long, luxurious blonde hair.

That first week of the London Olympics 2012, when I wasn’t watching, the primary storyline apparently was about Gabby Douglas’ great accomplishments in the Olympics. And her hair. Yawn.

As long as I’ve been alive, how black girls and women wear their hair has been “an issue” with someone. Processed or natural – “proves” how “black” someone really was, at least when I was growing up. Dyed or not – hey, do they “want to be white”?

In large part, I’m less upset by it than just sick of it. When the Daughter was about three, we were figuring out the best way to deal with her hair. At some point, we were experimenting with letting her hair go natural. Several black people I saw – who I didn’t even know, BTW – acted as though we were committing child abuse. “Hey, what are you DOING to that child?” Or “You get her to a stylist – NOW!” And these were some of the more reportable responses.

Back in 2009, Chris Rock made a movie called Good Hair which addressed his own daughter’s frustration with her “bad” hair.

Do you recall that poor white teacher in NYC who lost her job for READING the acclaimed children’s book called ‘Nappy Hair’ to mostly black and Hispanic third-graders “after parents complained and threatened her”? Sheer silliness.

I have, on LP, Whoopi Goldberg’s Broadway Show from the mid-1980s. She wore a yellow shirt or sweater over her head, and talked about her being a kid pretending to have long, luxurious blonde hair, just like she was “supposed” to have.

Seriously, I wish there was a moratorium on hearing about black females’ hair, especially by other people, but I’m not counting on it.