After sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson is suspended from competing in the Olympics, controversy arises around marijuana use among athletes.
Publish Date: Jul 23, 2021
one notable thing about sprinter Shakeri Richardson's positive test for marijuana at last month's U. S. Track and field trials was that she didn't deny or apologize for using pot. She said she was trying to cope with the stress of learning from a reporter that her biological mother had died. She did apologize for quote, the fact that I didn't know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time, which she didn't need to apologize for. The US anti doping agency gave Richardson the most lenient possible suspension one month, but her victory at the trials in the 100 m was invalidated, so she won't be allowed to run that event in Tokyo. She still could be named to the women's four by 100 relay team because that race is more than a month from the date of her suspension. Rules are rules Joel and Richardson must have known that she was taking a risk, but banning THC especially an aerobic sports like track and swimming arguably has nothing to do with performance enhancement or competition integrity and this great and compelling athlete is deprived from doing her main thing and we are deprived from watching her because of outdated sport. A Craddick rules. I'm not happy about that. I try very hard not to be a Rules are rules guy. I think it absolves people of the privilege of thinking right, because rules aren't intrinsically good and fair, because they're on the books. And we know that for all sorts of reasons, particularly in this country, that there's been rules used to justify all kinds of unfairness, discrimination, etcetera. And in a world were not very many black women get to be global icons are presented with moments that could create real wealth. I'm really hurt and disappointed that Shakeri is missing out on this opportunity. Maybe the way to think about this is in two different ways. There's a way of looking specifically Shakeri and they're more broadly at WADA. And if it's testing protocols makes sense. And I think that Shakeri Caught a really bad break and took this L on the chin in a really admirable way. Like, imagine like going through this at the age of 21 years old, I've been really impressed with how she's handled it. And I just, you know, mostly for her sake, I wish she had to smoke so close to competition, could have made it to the other side of this and competed at 100 but more broadly. And I said this a few weeks ago when we had David Epstein on, I wonder about the need to monitor athletes in this way, because first, it's all a piece of this nation's broader and widely acknowledged failure of a drug war, that this sort of came up in the late 90s is meant to monitor people's drug usage. And second, and this sort of goes back to our conversations about like inclusion for trans athletes or whatever else. I'm interested in this idea of fair competition, which like maybe we should reconsider as a whole because we know that there's actually no such thing as fair competition, whether through training or diet or any other literal physical advantages that athletes have. And so it all comes from the same well, like monitoring drugs, drug and take all this other stuff. And I'm just wondering if maybe this is an opportunity for the IOC for water to reconsider like how we got here in the first place, because it just in the end of the day, it just seems stupid, doesn't it josh. It does seem stupid. I think Dave Epstein and his newsletter range report did a good job of laying out with some of the misconceptions are here. And one of the issues is that these rules are set down by the world Anti doping agency to govern 206 olympic committees in all sports. And so he said that there's only maybe one example of a drug that is banned in one particular sport and not in others. And so these are one size fits all. Rules for countries have different views and approaches on different drugs. Different sports will necessarily think about performance enhancement in different ways with regard to different drugs. You have different states like Oregon where she carry Richardson was because the olympic trials were there where weed is legal and so back to what you were saying with rules or rules. Well yeah, she did violate a rule, but there were other rules in laws that she didn't violate depending on what the context was. And it brings to mind to me the conversation around Tyron Matthew when he was at LSU and he got kicked off the football team for first it was a synthetic marijuana suspension than it was a positive marijuana test. And there was just this really divergent set of opinions around, well why would he throw all this away knowing that they were testing for weed and why don't you just not smoke and not get kicked off the team? Like how hard is that? And then on the other side of the argument that he's not harming anyone, it's not it's not a performance enhancer, no matter how it's classified. And so what are we doing as like a school as a society and also like millions upon millions of people are engaging in this activity both legally and illegally with no repercussions at all as opposed to like the repercussion being getting kicked out of the olympics. So that just seems disproportionate. You know I think with the Shakira Richardson thing has done in a really helpful way and it's through the way that she's handled it and talked about it is spotlighted the kind of pain that she was in to make this bad decision. She really screwed up. She and she did this to herself in a way that she acknowledged. And so I think it helps you to understand why someone would do this because they're in like a bad headspace. It's not because she is stupid. It's not because she was just like willfully throwing things away. It just shows how sad she was, how upset she was, how she wasn't really thinking right. And so then instead of extending empathy and allowing someone to make a mistake, it not only seems really wrong, it is really wrong. And yet there is a way Stefan in which hands are tied here. And I guess my question for you is does that seem like a cop out to say, Well the rules are the same for 206 countries. You can't just give leeway to the United States here. In what ways do you think Grace could have been extended? And in what ways do you think This is just played out how it should? That she is getting sympathy. That she did acknowledge that she made a mistake and she won't be able to run in the 4x1. Let's stipulate that she's handled this about as well as someone could handle it. She went on the Today Show and made those comments. She was contrite again, not for having done what she did because of her mental state and her grief and her anxiety, whatever she was feeling about what she had learned. But because it jeopardized her ability to run in the olympics and it reflects badly on her sponsors, she said, and the people that have supported her and her coaches, and the people that have gotten to know her since the olympic trials who knew nothing about Shakeri Richardson, right? This is not a famous athlete, This is somebody who was going to get this was her olympic moment, one of those athletes that will become familiar to everybody who's paying attention to sports over the course of those two weeks that the olympics are held, what does it reflect josh? And it reflects an absolute in flexibility on the part of these gigantic sport, a Craddick organizations and ahead of the US anti doping agency came out and basically said this is stupid, we shouldn't be testing and I feel badly for her but we have no choice. Our hands are tied, so as long as they're going to be these gigantic organizations who take upon themselves the authority for regulating every sport in this cookie cutter way. I just don't know how you get around it. Somebody pointed out. I think it was Epstein actually, it was dave in his newsletter that if we start making exceptions, well, guess what? The Russian federation would have made a lot of exceptions for the actual cheating that its athletes engaged in at its behest during the winter olympics and in other sports a few years ago. So the small answer is that Shakeri Richardson's positive test and the sympathy, the outpouring of sympathy for her is certainly going to I think lead to change in terms of how the world anti doping agency regulates THC, but this is whack a mole when it comes to drugs and performance enhancement, and how we treat athletes and how we punish the.