U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson will not have the opportunity to show the world how good she is at the upcoming summer games in Tokyo. After testing positive for cannabis, she is no longer eligible to participate. Her disqualification is sure to spark a new debate over the use of cannabis among world-class athletes.
To her credit, Richardson has willingly accepted the one-month competition ban enforced against her by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Her fans hope to see her back on the track once the suspension is lifted. At just 21 years old, there is no reason to believe Richardson’s Olympic dreams are over; she always has 2024 and beyond to look forward to.
Grieving the Loss of Her Mother
News reports say Richardson has admitted to using cannabis to help her cope with the recent loss of her mother. Whether or not that constitutes medical use probably depends on who you talk to. Either way, the rules pertaining to controlled substances within the ranks of Olympic athletes are clear.
Richardson was hoping to make the U.S. Olympic team based on her recent trial results. Technically, her competition ban ends two days before the women’s 100m event in Tokyo. Yet Richardson still cannot compete because the ban negated her trial results.
In addition to the loss of her mother, Richardson now has to cope with the letdown of not being able to compete in Tokyo. The whole situation is truly unfortunate. Moreover, it illustrates the conundrum we have created in this country by inconsistent application of the rules pertaining to cannabis.
Conflicting Laws and Attitudes
Richardson isn’t alone in experiencing conflicting cannabis laws and attitudes. She is a native Texan and a former LSU student athlete. In Texas, medical cannabis use is heavily restricted. There are fewer restrictions in Louisiana, creating a conflict between what Richardson knew growing up and what she might have experienced at LSU.
The icing on the cake is the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Even states with medical cannabis programs only operate those programs because Washington chooses to embrace selective enforcement. As a result, conflicts occur all over the country. Take Utah, for example.
The owners of Deseret Wellness in Provo say that Utah is one of the most restricted medical cannabis states in the union. Lawmakers there are committed to ensuring that their program remains strictly medical. Their attitudes are in stark contrast to those you will find in California and Colorado.
Mixed Messages Create Confusion
Richardson has taken the high road and admitted doing something she should not have done. She has acknowledged that the rules are the rules, and every Olympic hopeful clearly understands them. Nonetheless, one cannot help but wonder if society’s mixed messages create unnecessary confusion.
If you live in a state in which both medical and recreational use is acceptable, are you more likely to be in favor of both? And if so, would you be more likely to try bending the rules as a potential U.S. athlete?
We can’t escape the fact that mixed messages create confusion in other areas outside the realm of medical cannabis. So why would we not expect the same thing in the cannabis arena? As long as government regulations and organizational rules conflict, mixed messages will abound.
It is something to think about as we cheer on U.S. athletes in Tokyo. In the meantime, there are rumors that U.S. officials could rethink anti-doping rules to consider whether or not cannabis use is ever acceptable. We will have to wait and see how it all shakes out.