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Before Her First Olympics, a Positive Test for Pot

It's now not clear if 21-year-old sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson will compete in Tokyo Games
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2021 7:24 AM CDT
Updated Jul 2, 2021 8:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – A breakout track star set to head to her first Olympics is now in competition limbo after she tested positive for marijuana. In news first reported by the Gleaner in Jamaica, US sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has had her win at last month's 100-meter race at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials disqualified after a drug test there found traces of pot in the 21-year-old's system. Sources confirmed the news to the New York Times and Reuters. Whether this knocks the young athlete completely out of the Tokyo Games, which run July 23 through Aug. 8, is still up in the air. More on this development:

  • The ban: Cannabis use is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, but athletes who can show using the substance wasn't tied to performance can get their suspension knocked down to three months instead of four years—and further down to one month if they go through a sanctioned treatment program.
  • The penalty: ESPN reports that Richardson has indeed accepted a one-month suspension, according to the US Anti-Doping Agency. In a statement, the USADA notes that the clock started ticking on her ineligibility period on June 28, and that "beyond the one-month sanction, athlete eligibility for the Tokyo Games is determined by the [US Olympic and Paralympic Committee] and/or USA Track & Field eligibility rules."
  • What this means for Team USA: Jenna Prandini, who just missed making it onto the American team with her fourth-place win during trials, has reportedly been informed she'll be running the 100-meter in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Gabby Thomas, who came in fifth at the trials, is now an alternate.
  • What this means for Richardson: She could still be be eligible to compete at the Olympics—just not in the 100-meter race. Per the Washington Post, Richardson wouldn't be eligible to take part in that because USA Track & Field selects competitors in individual competitions solely using trial results, and hers have been scrubbed. She could possibly run in the 4x100 relay, which starts Aug. 6 and for which USATF has more leeway in selecting competitors. As of Friday morning, Richardson was still listed as a competitor for the US.
  • Richardson's reaction: The sprinter—who initially posted a cryptic tweet on Thursday that simply read, "I am human"—owned up to the news on Friday. "I want to take responsibility for my actions," she told Today. "I know what I did. I know what I'm supposed to do, [what] I'm allowed not to do, and I still made that decision."
  • What spurred the pot use: Richardson says she found out while she was at the June trials in Oregon that her biological mother had recently died, per the Post. That, in combination with the pressures of the trials, led her to turn to marijuana, which is legal in that state. The news of her mother "sent me into a state of ... emotional panic," she told Today. "I was just trying to hide my pain."
(Read more Tokyo Olympics stories.)

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