Track star Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the U.S. Olympic team for a month after failing a marijuana use test.
Richardson’s suspension means the 21-year-old will not be able to compete in the women’s 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins July 23.
This event, which she preferred to win, will take place shortly after the end of her suspension issued by the US Anti-Doping Agency, which she has accepted.
However, she is unable to compete because the positive drug test invalidated her performance in early June during the U.S. Olympic trials that originally qualified her for the Tokyo Games.
It is possible that she could still compete in the 4 x 100 meter relay, whose participants are selected by US athletics officials.
“I want to take responsibility for my actions,” said Richardson on Friday on the NBC show “TODAY”.
“I know what to do.”
Richardson said during her interview that she ingested something containing marijuana before participating in the U.S. studies in Eugene, Oregon after she was shocked to learn from a reporter that her birth mother had died.
Marijuana use is legal in Oregon. But it is a prohibited substance under the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Richard tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, after her victory in the Eugene 100 meter trials.
“It put me in … a state of emotional panic,” she said when she heard the news about her mother.
Richardson, who was raised by her grandmother, said she was “blinded by emotion” and “hurt” after receiving the news.
“I want to say to my friends, my family, my sponsorship, um, also the haters, I apologize,” she said.
“As much as I am disappointed, I know that when I go out on the track, I am not representing myself. I represent a community that has shown me great support and love,” said Richardson. “When I stand here, I’m just saying, don’t judge me because I’m human, I am you, I just run a little faster.”
“This will be the last time the US doesn’t come home with a gold medal in the 100,” said Richardson.
Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement: “The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking in many ways.”
“Your responsibility and apology will hopefully be an important example to all of us that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions despite the costly consequences for them,” said Tygart.
The agency found that the World Anti-Doping Code this year “re-classifies THC as a ‘substance of abuse’ as it is widely used in society outside of sport”.
Typically, an athlete who tests positive for such a substance is suspended for three months if they discover that their use was “out of competition and unrelated to athletic performance,” the agency found.
But the suspension is reduced to a month when an athlete completes a counseling program, which Richardson did.
The minimum ban according to the anti-doping regulations is one month. The agency found that Richardson received the same sentence that two other athletes received from the agency under the new 2021 World Anti-Doping Code.
The US track and field team said in a statement posted on Twitter: “Sha’Carri Richardson’s situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved.”
“The health and wellbeing of athletes continues to be a top priority for the USATF and we will work with Sha’Carri to ensure she has adequate resources to meet all mental health challenges now and in the future.”
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