I saw this Onion headline, and was bummed they didn’t right a true-to-life hit piece on this ridiculous ordeal: Dream Crushed Over Trivial Bullshit Represents Nation Better Than Gold Medal Ever Could
We have a ridiculous situation where an accomplished Black woman is being handed down consequences based on an outdated federal law and guidelines, which themselves are based on false premises surrounding marijuana. I give Sha’Carri Richardson so much respect and admiration for taking responsibility for her actions.
Technically speaking, she knew that smoking marijuana was federally illegal and against US doping rules. Realistically speaking, everything else suggests that sidelining her from competing in the Olympics is perposterous:
- She was in a state where marijuana is legal.
- SCOTUS Justice Thomas just this week indicated that we should decriminalize at the federal level (Clarence Thomas says federal laws against marijuana may no longer be necessary). Sure he has ulterior motives that have little to do with legalization, but even he sees this as outdated.
- This is not a consequence being handed down from the IOC. It’s from our own government, specifically the US Doping Agency (SHA’CARRI RICHARDSON ACCEPTS ONE-MONTH BAN, WON’T RUN 100M IN TOKYO).
- They are sidelining our own incredible athlete over use of a recreational drug that is not a performance enhancer, and that is widely known (Is Marijuana a Performance-Enhancing Drug?).
- Marijuana is not just recreationally legal in 18 states plus DC. It is legal medically in many more (Timeline of cannabis laws in the United States).
- Marijuana is known to help with pain, anxiety, stress, appetite, and sleep.
- Richardson had just learned from a reporter that she lost her biological mom.
This entire decision lacks necessity, reeks of being outdated, and punishes an accomplished American for doing something 9 out of 10 Americans believe should be legal (6 facts about Americans and marijuana).
I have a lot of respect for Richardson’s decision to accept accountability, but I wish the US Doping Agency would take this opportunity to not punish one of our best athletes for choosing marijuana instead of a beer. She would not have seen consequences for drinking that day, in response to the news she learned, and no one would have batted an eye. I think our federal government needs to take a look at how damaging and unnecessary US marijuana laws are, and how they have so little basis in any facts.
The truth is, that marijuana has damaged the lives of Black Americans at a much higher price than white Americans (Marijuana’s racist history shows the need for comprehensive drug reform). Case in point, Michael Phelps was caught with visual imagery of him smoking a bong, as well as DUIs. He suffered suspension and lost some endorsements too, but because of the timing, he got endorsements back over time, and eventually returned to the Olympics (Michael Phelps The Greatest Olympian Ever Smokes Pot And Drinks Booze). If this had happened in October, the 1 month suspension might be the same, but Richardson would also stand the chance of still winning gold.
The US Anti-Doping Agency can change their decision. They can enforce a consequence after the Olympics. They can acknowledge that their rules are outdated and unnecessary too. Richardson taking responsibility should not deter them from changing their decision, more it should benefit her as someone of character who is willing to be accountable for her actions, even when the punishment so outweighs the behavior.
To me, whether this is the underpinnings of our nation’s long-held white supremacy sidelining a strong Black woman who rose to the top, or just a coincidental confluence of events, the impact is the same. We are allowing all of Richardson’s hard work be negated for, as the Onion so eloquently put it, trivial bullshit.
I wish we wouldn’t.