USADA Writes Letter to Congress After Sha'Carri Richardson Olympic Ban for Marijuana

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 9, 2021

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 19:  Sha'Carri Richardson competes in the Women's 100 Meter on day 2 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 19, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency wrote a letter to members of Congress appealing for legislators to soften the federal stance on the recreational use of marijuana.

The step comes after USADA suspended American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson for 30 days after she tested positive for THC. As a result, Richardson won't represent Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

USADA said in Friday's letter it can't act unilaterally to remove marijuana as a banned substance.

"Most governments in the world have been very reluctant to take marijuana off the prohibited list for public health reasons,” the letter said, per the Associated Press' Eddie Pells. “It is worth noting that when marijuana was included in the first prohibited list in 2004, one of the strongest advocates for inclusion of marijuana on the prohibited list was the U.S. government.”

Richardson qualified to run in the 100-meter dash by finishing with the best time (10.86 seconds) in that event during the U.S. Olympic trials. She presumably would've run in the 4x100-meter relay as well.

Instead, the 21-year-old will have to wait until at least 2024 to fulfill her Olympic dreams.

Many immediately came to her defense when the suspension was reported. Marijuana doesn't fit the profile of a performance-enhancing drug, and Richardson revealed on Today she had used the substance to help cope following the death of her birth mother:


Sha’Carri Richardson (<a href="https://twitter.com/itskerrii?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@itskerrii</a>) joins us live for an exclusive interview to discuss the positive marijuana test that’s put her Olympic future in limbo. <a href="https://t.co/iVBp3zhvja">pic.twitter.com/iVBp3zhvja</a>

President Joe Biden commented on the suspension by saying "the rules are the rules."

"Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules," he said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, however, wrote a letter to USADA CEO Travis Tygart and World Anti-Doping Agency President Witold Banka asking to overturn Richardson's punishment:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @RepAOC

We worked with <a href="https://twitter.com/RepRaskin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RepRaskin</a> and the Subcommittee on Civil Rights &amp; Civil Liberties to formally ask <a href="https://twitter.com/usantidoping?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USAntiDoping</a> to end Sha'Carri Richardson's suspension.<br><br>Their decision lacks any scientific basis. It's rooted solely in the systemic racism that's long driven anti-marijuana laws. <a href="https://t.co/F28c5ScI1D">pic.twitter.com/F28c5ScI1D</a>

Ocasio-Cortez cited the way in which major American sports leagues have eased the consequences for athletes who test positive for marijuana. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, which oversees some of the biggest fights in MMA and boxing, just announced plans to scrap marijuana-related punishments, a move that could have wider effects across combat sports.