President Biden has said that it was right to ban sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from the Olympics after she failed a marijuana test, but suggested the rules should be changed in the future.
Sprinter Richardson has been banned for 30 days after failing the drug test, and will miss out on the 100-meter dash at the Tokyo Games.
She says she only used marijuana to help cope with the death of her biological mother before the trials in Oregon.
Biden finally addressed the suspension and said that it was proper for Richardson to be banned but that he was ‘really proud of the way she responded’ to her ban after she appeared on the Today show and apologized.
‘The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in. Whether they should remain that way or will is a totally different issue,’ Biden told CBS News reporter Bo Erickson.
But others have not been so supportive of the decision by sport bosses, with infamous stoner Seth Rogen accusing Team USA of ‘racism’.
The actor-comedian, a vocal advocate for marijuana who co-wrote and starred in the 2008 stoner film Pineapple Express, tweeted on Friday that ‘the notion that weed is a problematic “drug” is rooted in racism.’
‘It’s insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred. It’s something they should be ashamed of. Also if weed made you fast, I’d be FloJo,’ Rogen, 38, said.
Biden, pictured, said that ‘the rules are the rules’ while appearing to suggest that perhaps they should be changed in the future.
The actor-comedian, a vocal advocate for marijuana who co-wrote and starred in the 2008 stoner film Pineapple Express, tweeted his support of Richardson
Infamous stoner Seth Rogen, left, has accused Team USA of ‘racism’ after Sha’Carri Richardson, right, was banned from the Olympics for cannabis
Rogen, pictured, had said on Friday that ‘the notion that weed is a problematic “drug” is rooted in racism’
Rogen’s tweet jokingly referred to the fastest woman of all time, Florence Griffith Joyner – whose records set in 1988 still stand.
His comments mirror those of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted Friday: ‘The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy. The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use.’
On Friday AOC joined with rep. Jamie Raskin to send a letter to the U.S. and World Anti-Doping Agency, whose guidance the Olympic Games follows, urging them to reconsider the suspension.
They wrote: ‘This punishment, which is not supported by any scientific evidence, may prevent Ms. Richardson from competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics just after she inspired the country with her performance in the Olympic Trials last month.
‘We are also concerned that the continued prohibition of marijuana while your organizations allow recreational use of alcohol and other drugs reflects anti-drug laws and policies that have historically targeted Black and Brown communities while largely condoning drug use in white communities.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has also stood by Richardson, but stopped short of opposing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to suspend her.
Psaki praised Richardson as ‘an inspiring young woman’ but said it was ‘appropriate’ for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to make its own independent decisions about anti-doping policies.
‘This was an independent decision made by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and not, not, a decision that would be made by the U.S. government, as is appropriate,’ Psaki said.
‘We will certainly leave them the space and room to make their decisions about anti-doping policies that need to be implemented.
‘I will also note that Sha’Carri Richardson is an inspiring young woman,’ Psaki said – adding that Richardson ‘has gone through a lot personally’ and ‘happens to be one of the fastest women in the world.’
‘That’s an important part of the story as well.’ Psaki said.
Rogen’s comments come as President Joe Biden finally addressed the suspension and said that Richardson should have been banned
Richardson has apologized to fans, but says she only used marijuana to help cope with the death of her biological mother before the Olympic trials in Oregon.
‘I just say don’t judge me because I am human,’ she told NBC’s Today on Friday. ‘I’m you, I just happen to run a little faster.’
Richardson, 21, explained that she learned about her biological mother’s passing from a reporter’s question during an interview days before she established herself as a gold medal contender by winning the 100-meter dash in 10.86 seconds at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon on June 19.
Afterwards, Richardson said she used marijuana in an ’emotional panic’, leading to the failed drug test that was revealed after her 100-meter win.
‘I knew I was having an interview,’ she said Friday. ‘I was just thinking it would be a normal interview. And then… to hear that information come from a complete stranger, I was definitely triggering, it was nerve shocking because it’s just like, how are you to tell me that? And no offense against him at all. He was just doing his job. But definitely, that put me in a state of mind, in a state of emotional panic, if anything.’
IS CANNABIS A PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUG?
Most athletes who use cannabis say they do so for pain management, to treat anxiety or simply for recreational use outside of competition.
The drug, normally smoked or ingested in edible form, is not thought to offer huge boosts to in-game performance.
While athletes may be able to stay calmer under pressure, THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – is known to inhibit motor control, balance, reaction time and coordination.
The World Anti-Doping Agency lists cannabis as a ‘substance of abuse’, meaning athletes can be banned or stripped of titles if they test positive in and around competition times.
However, a drug doesn’t have to be performance enhancing to feature on WADA’s Prohibited List.
WADA includes any substance or method that meets two of the following three criteria on the list:
• It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance;
• It represents and actual or potential health risk to the athlete;
• It violates the ‘spirit of sport’.
Other substances that feature on WADA’s ‘substance of abuse’ list include cocaine and MDMA, which could be considered performance enhancing because of the effects those drugs have on energy levels.
Like all ‘substances of abuse’, cannabis remains prohibited in competition and unless an athlete can prove that they ingested cannabis outside of competition, they would still be subject to a two year ban.
A three month ban is only available if an athlete can prove they ingested cannabis outside of competition.
However, there are numerous anecdotal examples of athletes who have sworn by using cannabis before games, including 1998 Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Ross Rebagliati and pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee.
There is also an argument that cannabis might enhance performance in precision sports such as archery, darts, or curling.
But Richardson was not using her mother’s death to excuse her decision. Marijuana is legal in Oregon, so she didn’t break any law, but she did know the potential consequences of using the drug.
‘I want to apologize for our actions,’ she said. ‘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. But [I’m] not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case.’
A positive marijuana test carries a 30-day suspension from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which will keep Richardson from competing in the 100 meter dash at the Tokyo Games on July 29. However, her back-dated ban would allow her to run in the 4×100 relay on August 6, if she is picked to do so by USA Track and Field.
‘If I’m allowed to receive that blessing [to compete in Tokyo] then I’m grateful for it,’ Richardson said. ‘But if not, right now I’m just going to focus on myself.’
A steroid suspension would have been more severe, but as Richardson explained, that’s not a concern with her and she expects to partake in future Olympic Games.
‘This is just one Game,’ she said. ‘I’m 21. I’m very young. Unlike most, I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in and I have plenty of talent that backs me up because of everything I do comes to me naturally, no steroid or anything. This incident was about marijuana. So after my sanction is up, I’ll be back and able to compete and everything. Next time I step on the track, I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agencies to come and get whatever they need.’
Nike, which has sponsored Richardson since 2019, said in a statement to ESPN reporter Aaron Dodson on Friday that the company would continue to sponsor the athlete.
‘We appreciate Sha’Carri’s honesty and accountability and will continue to support her through this time,’ the statement reads.
Cannabis has been classified as a ‘substance of abuse’ by the World Anti-Doping Agency since January 1 this year.
The USADA classes it as a prohibitive substance because it says it is performance enhancing, harmful to athletes and against the ‘spirit of the sport’. Its status as a performance-enhancing drug is disputed.
The use of cannabis is only prohibited during in-competition periods, which run from 11:59 p.m. on the day before a competition to the end of the competition.
A positive test result would require an athlete to have more than 150 nanograms per milliliter of THC in their system.
If athletes can prove that their ingestion of the substance was unrelated to sports performance then a suspension of three months rather than the usual four years is imposed.
If an athlete is willing to undertake an approved treatment program in collaboration with their national anti-doping body then the ban can be reduced to one month.
If Richardson receives a one-month suspension set from the time of her reportedly failed drug test at the trials, she could return to competition just before the Games.
The track and field portion of the competition begins on July 30.
However, her qualifying scores would still be wiped, making her inclusion unlikely.
At the discretion of USA Track and Field, it is possible that Richardson could take part in the 4x100M relay, even if she is ruled out of individual competition.