Olympic Medal Favorite Suspended After Failing Drug Test

By Hannah Claire Brimelow

Sha’Carri Richardson has been suspended from competition for one month, barring her chances at securing a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

The American sprinter secured her spot on the team at U.S.A. Track and Field Olympic Trials after clearing the women’s 100-meter semi-finals in 10.46 seconds and winning the finals with a time of 10.86 seconds.

Richardson, a show-woman in the Usain Bolt mold,” Yahoo! Sports notes, “is just 21-years-old but is the second-fastest woman in the world in the event this year, behind Jamaican star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.”

As part of the qualification process, athletes provided urine samples to the United State Anti-Doping Agency. Richard’s sample, provided on June 19, 2021 at the trials in Oregon, came back  was positive for THC.

In a statement online, the USADA said:

The 2021 World Anti-Doping Code newly classifies THC as a “Substance of Abuse” because it is frequently used in society outside the context of sport. If an athlete who tests positive for a Substance of Abuse establishes that their use of the substance occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, the athlete will receive a three-month sanction. However, if the athlete satisfactorily completes a Substance of Abuse treatment program approved by USADA, the sanction may be further reduced to one month.

In this case, Richardson accepted a one-month period of ineligibility that began on June 28, 2021, the date of her provisional suspension. Richardson’s period of ineligibility was reduced to one month because her use of cannabis occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, and because she successfully completed a counseling program regarding her use of cannabis. Her one-month period of ineligibility—the minimum allowed under the rules—is the same result as the two other Substance of Abuse cases that USADA has handled since the 2021 Code took effect.”

On Thursday, the Florida-based athlete posted the message “I am human” to her twitter.

In a later statement, she said “I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do, what I’m allowed not to do and I still made that decision.” 

Richardson’s retroactive disqualification is the latest loss for Team USA. Kahmari Montgomery, a 400 Meter runner, accepted a one-month suspension after testing positive for marijuana.  Paralympic sprinter David Prince accepted a 12-month suspension for doping violations. 

Shelby Houlihan, a middle-distance runner with two national records, was banned from the sport for four years following a drug test was positive for nandrolone, a steroid. The punishment, NPR reports, bars her from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the 2024 Paris Olympics. Houlihan blamed the test results on a pork burrito she bought at a food truck and plans to appeal the ban. 

Nike, Sha’Carri Richardson’s sponsor since 2019, has not made a statement regarding her disqualification. 

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