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Sha’Carri Richardson

An Olympic dream gone to pot

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Sha’Carri Richardson, says Matthew Futterman in The New York Times. The 21-year-old US sprinter was on track to succeed at the Olympics. In June she ran the 100 metres in 10.64 seconds – faster than any contemporary American, albeit with a following wind. Days later she tested positive for marijuana, and this week she was barred from competing in Tokyo. It made no difference that she was mourning the death of her mother, or that cannabis is legal in Oregon, where she took the test. She was out. “The rules are the rules,” said President Biden.

Yes, but those rules need updating, says Alyssa Rosenberg in The Washington Post. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s marijuana ban is more than a decade old, and it shows. “Pot is increasingly legal and accessible” – and it’s hardly performance-enhancing. If anxiety medications such as Zoloft are permitted, why not cannabis?

And her anxiety was justified. Richardson was estranged from her mother and found out she had died from a journalist, just days before the race. “I was just thinking it would be a normal interview,” she told NBC’s Today show. “But to hear that information coming from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering.” Professional athlete or not, this was an attempt to manage tragedy, says Rosenberg. Our expectations for athletes are too high: “It’s all too easy to equate physical excellence with superior morality.” Happily, Richardson remains optimistic. “I’m sorry, I can’t be y’all Olympic Champ this year but I promise I’ll be your World Champ next year,” she tweeted. “All these perfect people that know how to live life, I’m glad I’m not one of them!”