The Sha’carri Richardson Saga

Born March 25, 2000, LSU Lady Tiger Sha’carri Richardson, within the span of about two months, has become the most talked about track and field star in history. After becoming the Worlds Fastest Woman, she qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics on June 19th by posting a 100m trial time of 10.64 before reports surfaced on July 1 that Richardson tested positive for THC, disqualifying her race results and making her ineligible for the Olympiad 100m race.

She recognized a one-month ban from the IOC that began June 28, leaving her an open window to creep onto the American Women 4 x 100 Relay Team. Richardson was surprisingly not selected for the event and will miss the games entirely. Taking responsibility for her actions, Sha’carri apologized and stated in a Today interview that she smoked weed after learning of the death of her mother from a reporter during an interview.

Asley Landis/AP/shuttershock

The Sha’carri saga has opened up a wide debate on Cannabis in the sports world. The substance is rapidly being decriminalized and even legalized all over the U.S., including he state she got high in, causing many to question the sanctions placed upon her and the decision to not include her in the relay event. Some are politicizing the ruling in favor of federal cannabis legalization while others just want to see her run. Either way, it seems that generally everyone is in support of Sha’carri Richardson.

Weed as a “PED”

Cannabis is tricky content when viewed through the lens as a “PED” or “performance enhancing drug”. While it will not make a person jump higher, lift more weight or in this case, run faster, it can arguably induce an elevated state of focus in an athlete. That higher state of focus can allow one the ability to block out certain pressures or distractions all high-level athletes undoubtedly face during competition. While not exactly considered an enhancement of performance, it does represent a questionable advantage other participants may not be afforded.

Let’s be clear, as much as we want her there and regardless of the reason or situation, Sha’carri broke the rules and her ban is justifiable. No matter how much we want weed to be legal, Olympic athletes cannot smoke it during competition. Andrew Schulz made a great point on his Flagrant 2 podcast, stating that the greatest sprinters come from Jamaica, a country known for weed. Whether they smoke it or not they never get popped for it.

Another point is that while Cannabis is becoming more accepted in the U.S., it is still overwhelmingly frowned upon in most areas of the globe. The IOC stands for International Olympic Committee. This is their rule based upon what the world thinks. While this may accelerate the changing of rules, it does not change the fact that a rule was broken, no matter how frivolous the rule may be.

Sha’carri the Superstar

Sha’carri Richardson’s immaculate young poise and respect are on full display throughout this dilemma. While her actions have absolutely put the success of the team in jeopardy, it is not selfish to empathize with her. America wants to see her compete and win. America wants to see her elevate her teammates as well. She is a superstar that talks the talk and walks the walk and was right to give an apology that we wholeheartedly accepted.

There is so much more to be said about this story. She should be able to run, weed should be legal, certain rules should be broken, it’s a veritable rabbit-hole. Sha’carri Richardson, for her own reason, was not able to sacrifice what she needed to in order to win an Olympic Gold Medal but should not be looked at as unable to actually do it. She is the fastest woman in the world that did not follow the dumb rule set upon her. She works hard to be who she is and it seems that we can’t abide by her doing what she wants to do. That’s a shame.

Cliff Hawkins/ Getty Images

Congratulations to the 2019 Bowerman Award winner, state, conference and national title holder, Olympic qualifying Worlds Fastest Woman, Sha’carri Richardson.

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