.Sha’Carri Richardson’s Weed Debacle

How can you not love 5-foot-1-inch’ Sha’Carri Richardson, the amazing Black athlete with the cool name, bright orange hair, tattoos up and down her muscular arms, and her use of marijuana—which eliminated her from this summer’s Tokyo Olympics? Richardson was suspended from competition for a month, which knocked her out.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)—which regulates drug use in global sports—bans “all natural and synthetic cannabinoids.” That includes weed. And that’s dumb. U.S. Anti-Doping CEO Travis Tygart says, “The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking.” Indeed it is.

Richardson is one of the fastest humans on the planet. In June 2021, she ran the 100 meters in 10.86 seconds. That’s tops.

At 21, her career is just beginning, and her big mouth shows no signs of going quiet. “I am it,” she says. “I am who I say I am.” And also, “Talent is talent. If you got it, you go fast.” Richardson also says she’s sorry.

“I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time,” she says.

She used marijuana to deal with her mother’s death. That news hit her hard, plus she was stressed about the competition for the Olympics.

I say the anti-doping officials should have given Richardson a pass. After all, weed isn’t heroin, steroids or cocaine. According to sport experts, marijuana can relax an athlete and improve performance. Let all the sprinters smoke weed, get loose and run fast. On social media, many fans of the Olympics were behind Richardson. Actress Patricia Arquette says, “This is ridiculous. What are they thinking.” Another fan says, “She should get extra points for winning while on the weed.”

Here’s my all time favorite comment from Richardson: “This is the last time the Olympics don’t see Sha’Carri Richardson. This is the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with the gold in the 100 meters.”

Perhaps Richardson runs fast and talks wild, because she grew up poor in Texas. She played some basketball and football in school, but by the age of 9 she knew she wanted to be a sprinter and win medals. She has exceeded her wildest dreams.

Track aficionados have told her to cut her hair, cut her nails and get rid of her eyelashes, because they slow her down. Richardson is Richardson, from her size 8 shoes to her bright orange hair.

Along with Muhammad Ali, she’s the greatest—in my book. I’ll tie her shoe laces, bring her water, clock her when she runs the 100 meters and point out once again the absurdity of the laws against marijuana.

Jonah Raskin is the author of “Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War.”
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