With her iconic orange hair flowing behind her, Sha’Carri Richardson made a huge statement as she won the 100m dash at the Olympic trials in June. At the outset of the race, she stayed level with the other athletes but made her mark during last 50 meters where she glides by the women in the other lanes with confidence, finishing in 10.86 seconds.
Fans were inspired by her drive, closeness to her grandmother and her incredible time, which she managed to run at the young age of 21. Everyone was amazed at the confidence and stride of the fastest woman in America.
However, when she tested positive for THC, or marijuana, the United States Anti-Doping Agency reduced her timing to a 2 month, then 1- month suspension, preventing her from participating in the Olympic 100m dash. Her use of marijuana amplified the idea that athletes are still people prone to hardship. In this case, Richardson’s biological mother had died a few days before the Olympic trials and Richardson simply used the weed to cope with her grief.
Sha’Carri, whose bold personality is particularly captivating, stated on her Twitter that the Olympics simply “won’t be the same” without her. She also proclaimed, “I can’t be y’all Olympic Champ this year, but I promise I’ll be your World Champ next year”.
Ultimately, this is not an issue about Richardson having an unfair advantage. Although it can relax an athlete, so they are not as anxious about their performance once the blank is fired, it has been proven that marijuana is not especially used to boost performance while racing such short distances. Neither was this a problem with the legalities of marijuana since Richardson tested positive in Oregon, where weed is legal.
The issue is the double standard when it comes to what the Olympic officials are willing to tolerate. If the real problem were the health of the athletes, they would not distribute alcoholic beverages in the Olympic village. Alcohol however is as detrimental to athlete’s health, if not more dangerous when consumed in large amounts.
Michael Phelps, a star Olympian whose swimming revolutionized the sport, was also caught smoking in 2009, and was conveniently never even tested. Officials are arguing that because he never actually reported positive for marijuana, his timings were all still valid. The comparison to Richardson is jarring because of the way Phelps was never penalized for the same activity.
Based on other patterns of discriminatory behaviors by the Olympics, such as the board banning certain swim caps used by Black women and limiting Black female athletes due to their higher testosterone levels, it is evident that the rules need to be rectified. Rather than praising their athletic prowess, the board explains the greatness of these women by pointing to their natural differences.
Overall, the Olympics needs to review their policies to make sure that the playing field is level for all athletes. A basic sense of understanding is not shown at all for competitors like Richardson who are facing challenges in their lives, which are not worries about how fast they will cross a finish line.
Regardless, Sha’Carri is a force to be reckoned with. Her competitive spirit, powerful cadence, compelling look, and colorful hair will only grow before her showcase in 2025.