By Ken Reed

Okay, so Sha’Carri Richardson knew the rules regarding marijuana use and broke them in a moment of high emotional stress after learning her biological mom had died. She owned up to her decision and isn’t looking for empathy.

But please. Come on. Does smoking some pot — which is no more a performance-enhancing drug than taking several shots of Tito’s vodka before approaching the starting line — really require taking away an opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games, something Richardson has worked hard for across many years?

Of course it doesn’t. When it comes to their thinking on marijuana, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are stuck in the 1960’s.

Nobody in their right mind thinks using marijuana enhances the performance of a 100 meter sprinter. Marijuana slows reaction time (not helpful in getting out of the blocks in a short sprint, or running faster than the fastest women in the United States).

When announcing Richardson’s positive test and suspension, the USADA cited a 2011 research report which included this beauty: Marijuana use is “not consistent with the athlete as role model for young people around the world.”

Please. Stop with the moralizing.

USADA and WADA have way overstepped their bounds. They should focus on truly performance-enhancing substances, not delivering sermons on morality.

Research by a WADA scientist in 2018 concluded there is no direct evidence of performance-enhancing effects on athletes from marijuana use. Well, duh. Then change your silly, out-dated rules!

WADA and USADA also need to catch up with the rest of the world. Marijuana use, for medicinal and recreational purposes, is now legal in many parts of the United States and around the world. Every major pro sports league in the United States has significantly loosened their policies on marijuana in recent years. The NFL has eliminated marijuana suspensions and the NBA has stopped random testing.

Kicking Richardson out of the Olympics for smoking a joint is sad. And it was completely avoidable. WADA and USADA simply needed to update their marijuana policies through the years.

But WADA and USADA are frozen in the stone age. And, as a result, Richardson will have to watch the 100m race in the Olympics from a couch like the rest of us.

That’s just not right.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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