American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson expressed regret Friday morning for testing positive for marijuana.
“I apologize,” Richardson said on NBC’s “Today” show. “As much as I’m disappointed, I know that when I step on the track I represent not only myself, I represent a community that has shown great support, great love. … I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
The United States Anti-Doping Agency on Friday announced that Richardson has accepted a one-month suspension. In accepting the penalty, Richardson’s results from the U.S. Olympic trials have been “disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points, and prizes,” USADA said in a statement.
Richardson tested positive at the Olympic trials last month, where she established herself as a gold-medal contender by winning the 100 meters in 10.86 seconds.
She said she knew the rules but that her use of marijuana was a coping mechanism after finding out her biological mother had died.
“We all have our different struggles, we all have our different things we deal with, but to put on a face and have to go out in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain,” Richardson said. “Who are you? Who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with a pain or you’re dealing with a struggle that you’ve never experienced before or that you never thought you’d have to deal with. Who am I to tell you how to cope? Who am I to tell you you’re wrong for hurting?”
Richardson was billed to run in the 200 meters at the Stockholm Diamond League meeting in Sweden this weekend, but she was not on the entry list for the meet’s official website Thursday.
The Texan was aiming to become the first American woman to win the Olympic 100-meter title since Gail Devers in 1996 after posting a time of 10.72 seconds in April — one of her five runs under 11 seconds this season.
A 30-day ban backdated to the time of the adverse result could leave Richardson clear to race in the 4×100-meter relay at the Olympics on Aug. 6, if selected by USATF. There are six athletes entered into the 4×100 pool; four are qualifiers based on their performance in the 100-meter individual race and two will be named by USATF, so Richardson could have a chance to participate.
“If I’m allowed to receive that blessing [to compete in Tokyo], then I’m grateful for it,” Richardson said. “But if not, right now I’m just going to focus on myself.”
Among the responses to Richardson’s ban was a letter from U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who serve as chair and vice chair on the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, calling on USADA to “reconsider the policies that led to this and other suspensions for recreational marijuana use, and to reconsider Ms. Richardson’s suspension.”
Marijuana isn’t thought to enhance performance but remains banned because, according to USADA, the drug meets two of three criteria listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency for something to be added to its prohibited list: A) it poses a health risk to athletes; B) it has the potential to enhance performance; and C) it violates the spirit of sport.
Regardless of whether she will be cleared for Tokyo, Richardson said this isn’t the end of her Olympic dreams.
“This is just one Games. I’m 21, I’m very young. … I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in and I have plenty of talent that backs me up, because everything I do comes from me naturally. No steroid, no anything,” she said. “This incident was about marijuana, so after my sanction is up I’ll be back and able to compete, and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”
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