INDIANAPOLIS (NEXSTAR) — Banned sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was left off the U.S. relay team and won’t run in the Tokyo Olympics, track officials said Tuesday.
Shortly after she won the Olympic trials in Oregon last month, she tested positive for chemicals found in marijuana. Though it was acknowledged the drug was not used for performance-enhancing purposes, Richardson still had her results erased and received a one-month ban.
Richardson lost her spot in the Olympic 100-meter race after testing positive, but could have run in the 4X100-meter relay race, had coaches chosen to put her on the team.
The federation had two discretionary picks beyond the top four finishers in the 100-meter final at trials but chose not to offer a spot to the 21-year-old sprinter, who was expected to challenge for Olympic gold.
Asked about how Richardson was taking the news, her agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, responded: “We haven’t spoken about it at all. It was actually not a topic we focused on.”
In a statement, USATF said it was “incredibly sympathetic toward Sha’Carri Richardson’s extenuating circumstances” and “fully agrees” that international rules regarding marijuana should be reevaluated.
“So while our heartfelt understanding lies with Sha’Carri, we must also maintain fairness for all of the athletes who attempted to realize their dreams by securing a place on the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team,” the statement read.
In this case, that meant offering the remaining relay spots to the sixth- and seventh-place finishers, each of whom moved up in the pecking order after Richardson’s DQ. They are English Gardner and Aliea Hobbs.
On Thursday, as reports swirled about her possible marijuana use, Richardson put out a tweet that said, simply: “I am human.” On Friday, she went on TV and said she smoked marijuana as a way of coping with her mother’s recent death.
“I was definitely triggered and blinded by emotions, blinded by badness, and hurting, and hiding hurt,” she told NBC. “I know I can’t hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain.”
Richardson had what could have been a three-month sanction reduced to one month because she participated in a counseling program.
After the London Olympics, international regulators relaxed the threshold for what constitutes a positive test for marijuana from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/m. They explained the new threshold was an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.
Though there have been wide-ranging debates about whether marijuana should be considered a performance-enhancing drug, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency makes clear on its website that “all synthetic and naturally occurring cannabinoids are prohibited in-competition, except for cannabidiol (CBD),” a byproduct that is being explored for possible medical benefits.
Richardson said if she was allowed to run in the relay, “I’m grateful, but if not, I’m just going to focus on myself.”
Her case is the latest in a number of doping-related embarrassments for U.S. track team. Among those banned for the Olympics are the reigning world champion at 100 meters, Christian Coleman, who is serving a suspension for missing tests, and the American record holder at 1,500 and 5,000 meters, Shelby Houlihan, who tested positive for a performance enhancer she blamed on tainted meat in a burrito. Also on Friday, defending Olympic 100-meter hurdles champion Brianna McNeal had a five-year ban for tampering or attempted tampering with the doping-control process upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.