The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says it can’t unilaterally alter the rules that led to the suspension of American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, despite marijuana not being intentionally used to improve performance.
What they said: The USADA explained in a letter to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) that reversing Richardson’s suspension could have resulted in a longer suspension because the sprinter voluntarily accepted it.
The letter, co-signed by USADA CEO Travis Tygart, said nixing the suspension “would have been quickly appealed” by the International Olympic Committee or World Anti-Doping Agency.
“Most governments in the world have been very reluctant to take marijuana off the prohibited list for public health reasons,” the USADA letter reads. “It is worth noting that when marijuana was included in the first prohibited list in 2004, one of the strongest advocates for inclusion of marijuana on the prohibited list was the U.S. government.”
The agency noted at the very beginning of the letter that it finds Richardson’s exclusion from the Olympics in Tokyo “heartbreaking” and that the World’s Anti-Doping Agency rules regarding marijuana use “must change.”
The USADA also highlighted that Richardson would not have been penalized if her infraction fell under the jurisdiction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where they have a new law regarding marijuana use.
You can read the full letter here.
How we got here: Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin sent a letter to the USADA earlier this month, urging the group to rethink Richardon’s suspension for recreational marijuana use.
Richardson was eventually left off Team USA’s roster.
“We urge you to reconsider the policies that led to this and other suspensions for recreational marijuana use, and to reconsider Ms. Richardson’s suspension. Please strike a blow for civil liberties and civil rights by reversing this course you are on,” they wrote.
“We are also concerned that the continued prohibition of marijuana while your organizations allow recreational use of alcohol and other drugs reflects anti-drug laws and policies that have historically targeted Black and Brown communities while largely condoning drug use in white communities,” the lawmakers said.
Ocasio-Cortez further argued that “[t]he criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy.”
The suspension caused an uproar on social media, with many, including lawmakers, arguing that marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug.
President Biden also weighed in on the issue, saying he was “really proud of the way [Richardson] responded.”
Richardson apologized on Friday, saying that she used marijuana to cope with the loss of her biological mother who died before the race.
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