The US sprinting sensation Sha’Carri Richardson has been growing in stature and was set to become a household name during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. She recently qualified for the Olympics as the fastest woman in America. However, it now looks like she will be eligible for the games after testing positive for THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid within the cannabis plant.
Richardson has reportedly failed a drug test that was conducted during the USA’s Olympic trials. It is now likely that she will no longer be included in the US team that competes at the Tokyo Olympics. It now looks like her place will be filled by Jenna Prandini, who finished fourth at the US trials in the 100m sprint that Richardson was victorious in.
Richardson has taken her ban gracefully and must be commended on how she has conducted herself in what must be heart-breaking circumstances. Particularly given that she disclosed that she only used cannabis to deal with the death of her mother.
Prior to the outcome of the drug test, Richardson had qualified for the US Olympic team with a 100m sprint time of 10.86 seconds, however this time has been provisionally disqualified. However, it remains unclear when Richardson took the drug test.
Cannabis remains a banned substance in the most sports even despite the ongoing easing for cannabis prohibition in the Western world. There is little evidence to suggest that cannabis is a performance enhancing drug. Cannabis is classified as a substance of abuse by the World Anti-Doping Agency since January 2021.
If an athlete fails a drug test there is typically a ban of four years. However, this can be reduced to 3 months if the athlete who is found guilty can prove that the drugs that they consumed didn’t enhance their performance and enable them to be more competitive.
It is likely that Sha’Carri Richardson will be able to negotiate a reduced ban, however she will likely miss the Tokyo Olympics that begins on the 27th of July after being delayed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Subsequently Richardson has been banned for one month by the US Anti-Doping agency which began on the 28th of June. Technically she is eligible for the 4 x 100m relay that takes place towards the end of the games, so she could still be named in the US Olympic team.
Richardson’s suspension will be served once the Olympic track and field competition begins, but her qualifying time was scrapped meaning she cannot run in the women’s 100m relay but could run in the relays. Track and field’s procedures leave little room for discretion over who is eligible to race. The regulations dictate that the top three finishers in an event at the respective nation’s qualifying trials qualify for the Olympics under the condition that their performance meets the Olympics’ standards.
Up to six athletes can be selected for a country’s relay pool and four of them must be top three finishers in the 100m at the national trials. The governing body is responsible for naming the other two members of the relay pool.
Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances. Both the USADA and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee are both signatories to the WADA code meaning that they must abide by its rules.
Marijuana is only banned during competitive periods of the year which are defined as beginning at 11.59pm the day before an event and ending at its conclusion. Athletes may have up to 150 nanograms per millilitre of THC, which is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis without causing a positive test.
According to USADA, cannabis is a prohibited substance because it enhances performance, and it poses a health risk to athletes and its use violates the spirit of the sport.