US track and field star Sha’Carri Richardson was Tokyo bound for the 2020 Summer Olympics (which begin this month after being delayed due to COVID-19), until a positive test for THC handed her a 30-day ban. That ban, the result of a World Anti-Doping Agency test, means Richardson will no longer be able to compete at the games.
Richardson has said that she used marijuana to help cope with the pressure of qualifying for the Olympics while also mourning the recent death of her mother. Her positive test came during a time when many other anti-doping agencies, including USADA, are removing marijuana and THC from their banned substance lists.
Plenty have expressed sympathy for Richardson with ‘Let Sha’Carri Run!’ trending across social media platforms. The situation has also lead to many pundits pointing out how marijuana laws in the United States were created to target Black and Latine communities and how these communities continue to face disproportionately stricter penalties for marijuana possession than their white counterparts.
MMA Fighting asked two-time Olympic gold medallist and current PFL champion Kayla Harrison what she thought of the situation.
“It’s just tough,” she said. “I think the problem I have with it — I’ve smoked weed, I’m not like Miss Goody Two Shoes, I’ve tried it, I don’t do it regularly, for my own personal reasons I just don’t do it, and I have also been drug tested by USADA since I was 13, and I very clearly knew that the rules were you can’t smoke weed. My biggest problem with it is if you know what the rule is and you choose to do it anyway, that’s nobody’s fault but your own. That’s my opinion on it.”
Harrison was also asked if she thinks that the rules should be changed around marijuana and Olympic athletes to fit more in line with what is happening in MMA, with the Nevada State Athletic Commission recently agreeing to not punish marijuana use.
“Do I think that the rules should be changed? I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I don’t know the benefits of smoking pot versus not smoking pot. I don’t know if it helps with anxiety and performance anxiety. I don’t know. I have no idea if it’s a performance-enhancing drug.
“Do I think it is? Probably not but that’s not my place to give that opinion. I do believe though that if you know the rules and you willingly break them, then there are going to be consequences for those actions. It is what it is.”
Harrison went on to talk up her diligence regarding avoiding performance enhancing drugs and how important she thinks it is to ‘fight clean’.
“I’m a fighter who wants to be clean, fight clean, I don’t want to fight people who are dirty,” Harrison said. “I believe in pursuing sports to the highest of abilities with moral and integrity and upholding the beauty of what the human body can do just by itself. Not what a human robot can do with all these things inside their system. But how do you keep sports clean? There’s a new steroid out there every week. There’s a new this variation of this and this and this. I don’t know. I believe in drug testing. I believe in USADA.
“I believe what they’re trying to do but it also kind of sucks. Cause I could take an iron supplement and something could be wrong with it and I could test positive and there goes my career. But if you know that you’re not supposed to smoke weed, don’t smoke weed.”
Harrison’s fellow PFL star Claressa Shields, who is also an Olympic gold medallist, shared her opinion on the situation, too.
Being an olympic athlete comes with a lot of sacrifice! Time with family, holidays, relationships, diets, and even how you party. If marijuana can enhance your performance in sports you should not do it. I’m saddened for Richardson I hope she learns from this & bounce back— Claressa Gwoat Shields (@Claressashields) July 2, 2021
Being an olympic athlete comes with a lot of sacrifice! Time with family, holidays, relationships, diets, and even how you party. If marijuana can enhance your performance in sports you should not do it. I’m saddened for Richardson I hope she learns from this & bounce back
Also I hope she surrounds herself with more like minded people. Those you can encourage her to stay on a free marijuana path & get what is hers. She had the potential to be an olympic champ. Still does.— Claressa Gwoat Shields (@Claressashields) July 2, 2021
Also I hope she surrounds herself with more like minded people. Those you can encourage her to stay on a free marijuana path & get what is hers. She had the potential to be an olympic champ. Still does.
Shields received immediate backlash from her posts. Some argued that she was shaming Richardson of partying, despite the runner’s claims that she smoked to deal with pressure and the death of her mother. Others were confused about Shields’ comments regarding marijuana as a performance enhancer.
Shields followed up those tweets pleading ignorance on marijuana, stating she had “never smoked weed a day in my life.”
“But I know to be an Olympic athlete it comes with full life sacrifice!” continued Shields. “It’s not easy and I’m not shaming Richardson for doing it. I’m speaking from a two times Olympic champ stand point and I didn’t makle the rules, but I had to follow them. I don’t know what weed does, I just know that was one of the things could ruin my dreams so I never went anywhere near it. Richardson is young. She will bounce back! I’m cheering for her.”