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Sprint star Sha’Carri Richardson faces a suspension by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for testing positive for cannabis. USADA, better handle this case with care.

The recreational drug is on the banned list of substances and athletes know this. However, is marijuana use a performance-enhancing drug for a sport that requires an all-out sprint? Perhaps it is a calming agent in biathlon or target shooting, where calm is required, but sprinting; not likely.

Andre Lowe/Sports Editor broke the story for the Jamaican Gleaner. The tiny nation is so competitive with the U.S.A. in the sprints that Lowe wrote at least a dozen paragraphs never mentioning cannabis. Instead, he cryptically insinuated that the banned drug that was detected was something more elicit than the near-religious weed-of-joy of the Caribbean country of which his news outlet represents.

Richardson is the 2021 U.S.A. 100m sprint champion and qualified for the 100m and 4 x 100m events. Her performances at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR last week lit up the stadium and screens around North America.

The 21-year-old’s official personal best is 10.72. Her wind-aided best, which was accomplished during the Olympic Trials, is 10.64 (wind, +2.6).

Despite doubts of marijuana use, by many, to be of benefit to a sprinter, the drug is listed as banned and all athletes have this information at their disposal.

From the World Anti-Doping Agency:

ALL NATURAL AND SYNTHETIC CANNABINOIDS ARE PROHIBITED, E.G.

  • In cannabis (hashish, marijuana) and cannabis products
  • Synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC
  • Natural and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs)

From the United States Anti-Doping Agency:

USADA is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code, which helps harmonize anti-doping efforts across sports and around the world. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains the Code, as well as the Prohibited List and International Standards.

The WADA Prohibited List identifies marijuana and cannabinoids as substances that are prohibited in competition. Unless an athlete has an approved Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), the use of substances when they are prohibited in sport may lead to an anti-doping rule violation and sanction.

On the other hand, marijuana use is so common, as its legality is changing around the world. As it becomes more legal, the trend is that its use becomes more accepted as the norm. Additionally, cannabis is often used as a medical aid. The World Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency need to navigate this case carefully. Richardson’s potential suspension may be yet another nail in the coffin of athletics in North America. The dwindling sport needs its stars and the Texan shines as bright as any. Her personality is vivacious, flamboyant and when she sprints, her hair flows in outrageous colours, which makes her a trackside beacon; a flair for the sport.

Jenna Prandini, who placed fourth at the trials, will now be one of the three American women running the 100m in Tokyo. Also toeing the line will be Gabby Thomas, who finished fifth at the trials, she was named as an alternate for the race.

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