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Sha’Carri Richardson Suspended From Olympics: Why WADA, USADA Need to Change Now

Sha’Carri Richardson Suspended From Olympics: Why WADA, USADA Need to Change Now article feature image

Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Sha’Carri Richardson.

Sha’Carri Richardson, the woman who, with her colorful hair and nails reminiscent of Flo Jo, stormed onto the scene by winning the 100 meter final at the U.S. Olympic Trials, is out for the race in Tokyo.

Richardson tested positive for marijuana and quickly admitted to it, telling “The Today Show” on Friday morning that she smoked to cope with the sudden death of her biological mother, as well as the pressure to perform at the trials.

On social media, the reaction is nearly unanimous: Richardson is getting jobbed.

The truth is marijuana is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances mostly because it was originally not thought of in a positive way. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) page admitted as much when a previously cached page said marijuana was on the list because it was against the spirit of sports. Things got cloudier when states across the country legalized marijuana.

Yes, marijuana is treated differently because an athlete can now only be suspended for using it in large quantities before competition, but the spirit of why it’s on WADA’s banned substances list is garbage.

It’s on the list because WADA says it can include things on the list that pose a health risk to athletes.

That shouldn’t be allowed.

How is it WADA’s business to care? Why can’t athletes do what they want with their bodies and their life? Should they ban fried foods? Should they ban Ding Dongs and those delicious apple pies in a wax bag? WADA has no business banning anything that poses a health risk to athletes. It’s not their job.

WADA’s job is to ban performance-enhancing drugs for the sanctity of competition. Marijuana’s greatest performance enhancer is dulling pain. But to what degree would it help? How does the pain-dulling enhancement compare to the downer aspects of marijuana smoking that would seem counterintuitive to using it before trying to run the race that would prove you are the fastest woman in the world? How much does it dull pain more than topical rubs or allowable meds? Is a massage gun a performance enhancer?

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Here’s the deal: Richardson competed in Oregon, where marijuana has been legal for eight years. It’s as legal as cookie dough and potato chips. She used it to deal with her anxiety around her mother’s death, but even if she didn’t, what does it matter? Was it bad for her health? She still won.

Yes, it should have been taken off the list before this happened, but WADA and USADA have in their mission statement that their jobs are to protect the health of athletes. That shouldn’t be in there. That’s not their job. Their job is to protect the sanctity of the competition.

For 99% of the banned substances on the list, that’s what they are doing. They can tell you what nandrolone does to the body and what clenbuterol does.

But unless they can definitively say why marijuana is performance enhancing, Richardson should run the 100 meters in the games.

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