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Sha’Carri Richardson doesn’t need to apologize for smoking weed

July 2, 2021

The United States Anti-Doping Agency has announced that Olympic hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson will serve a one-month suspension after she has tested positive for marijuana. The suspension could prevent Richardson from moving on to the Olympic Games.

Richardson came forward this morning to apologize to her fans for consuming cannabis. Now, fans of the track star wait for the official decision of when the 30-day suspension will begin.  

According to ESPN, if the ban is backdated to the time of the test results, there’s still a chance that she could compete in the 4×100 meter relay at the Olympics in Tokyo on August 6.

Athletes continue to need weed

Richardson is just one of many athletes who use cannabis. From professional basketball players to football stars, cannabinoids have helped athletes recover, manage anxiety, stay focused, and stay off of pain killers.

In this case, Richardson explained that she had been using cannabis to cope with the loss of her biological mother just one week before she qualified for the Olympics with a trials-winning 10.86 seconds 100-meter race in Oregon last month.

The issue brings harsh focus on a played-out issue. Society continues to rely on athletes to entertain and represent us on some of the world’s biggest stages, but when do we allow them to participate in the same cannabis self-care that the rest of the world does?

In Richardson’s case, it’s critical to think about when, as a Black queer female athlete, she is “allowed” to care for herself in this way. If the answer is “never,” we are preventing a world-class athlete from taking care of her mental health as she sees fit.

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Trauma and triumph in the public sphere

If it wasn’t the exhilaration of seeing Richardson cross the finish line of her race with her fiery orange hair, it was probably the tender moment when she embraced her grandmother that sealed her place in our hearts.

What we all should have recognized in this moment was Richardson’s ability to not only run her race, but to do it during a tumultuous and vulnerable time in her life.

Richardson demonstrated bravery, determination, and skill when she won her race after losing a loved one. As soon as she finished, she rushed to the stands and into the arms of her loving matriarch, who was visibly bursting with pride.

Delivering elite athletic performances and tackling a devastating loss in public probably isn’t easy for anyone, let alone athletes who use cannabis for their physical and mental health. And by revealing that she is a cannabis user, Richardson did nothing more than admit to her own struggles and humanity.

Had it been prescribed pharmaceutical substance to help her take the edge off, no one would have batted an eye. But because it was cannabis, the 21-year old’s future is in the balance.

Let Richardson run in the 2021 Olympics

Photo of the Olympic rings against a blue sky background

We’ll make it clear: Not only did Richardson dominate her race with gusto, but she did it without performance-enhancing drugs. You know, the ones that actually affect competitive results. There’s nothing about her cannabis use that makes her any less of a world-class athlete, and there is nothing about her athletic performance that makes her any less of an Olympian.

Antiquated rules about cannabis make athletes choose between the plant and their careers, and the world of sports needs to catch up with the times.

Luckily, according to Sports Illustrated, Richardson could run in the 2021 Olympics. Even though her trial times have been invalidated, USA Track and Field can still select her for the Olympic 4×100 team based on her status as one of the fastest 100-meter sprinters in the world today.

While we wait for USA Track and Field to make the right decision and let Richardson run, the World Anti-Doping Agency should remove cannabis from its list of prohibited substances and modernize its rules around cannabis use.

Last time we checked, having cannabis in your system says nothing about any kind of addiction to, well, anything, but even still, Richardson has apologized and committed to attending treatment for her cannabis use. Her sportsmanship continues to shine even as she is held to a set of impossible standards set upon her by society and world sports.

At Leafly, we hope to see this US Olympian run in Tokyo. Sha’Carri, we see you, and we believe in you.

Janessa Bailey's Bio Image
Janessa Bailey

Janessa was born and raised in the Midwest, and serves as Leafly's current culture editor. She has a background in content, activism, and African-American Studies.

Janessa is the creator of Lumen and Seeds of Change.

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