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Archive for July 3, 2021

July 3, 2021 — Putting the running spike on the other foot

The world’s sporting media and punditry have been in a tabloid firestorm over the last 48 hours when it was discovered that Sha’Carra Richardson, the American sprinter who won the 100-meter dash at the recent U.S. Olympic trials, tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Richardson’s sanction for the test is a month’s suspension. This rules her out of the 100-meter dash at the Tokyo Olympics, but she may be selected by USA Track and Field to run the 4-by-100 relay, which takes place in the final days of the Games.

Much of the objection to the Richardson penalty is race-based. Richardson is a strong athlete with a sense of individuality and visual flair that has only been seen from the likes of Florence Griffith-Joyner. Her orange hair and long socks have drawn a lot of attention to her.

So, regrettably, has the doping test.

And it says here that Richardson’s backers are dying on the wrong hill trying to agitate for her reinstatement.

Whether or not you are in the pro-cannabis or anti-drug camp, there is one incontrovertible fact: the regulations against the use of marijuana — whether or not it is a performance enhancer — is against the regulations of the U.S. Anti-Doping and World Anti-Doping Agencies.

Why? USADA applies a tripartite test for any and all substances for possible banning:

  1. Poses a health risk to athletes;
  2. Has the potential to enhance performance;
  3. Violates the spirit of sport.

According to findings from a WADA paper from 2011, cannabis fails all three portions of this test. Although WADA exempted cannabidiol (CBD) two years ago, all other natural or synthetic cannabinoids remain prohibited in-competition, regardless of the legality of their use or possession in their particular country.

Some types have used this episode to attack drug laws as being racist and/or classist. Others in the media have seen the Richardson tale as one of the establishment looking to keep down a potential rebellious element within the sport.

But here’s the thing. Would we be saying the same things if a charismatic white male Norwegian speed skater tested positive for cannabis?