American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, the gold-medal hopeful in the 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics, was suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Association for testing positive for marijuana at the Olympic trials in June. Richardson apologized Friday morning in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.
"We all have our different struggles, we all have our different things we deal with, but to put on a face and have to go out in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain," Richardson said of her use of marijuana as a coping mechanism after her biological mother's death. "Who are you? Who am I to tell you how to cope when you're dealing with a pain or you're dealing with a struggle that you've never experienced before or that you never thought you'd have to deal with. Who am I to tell you how to cope? Who am I to tell you you're wrong for hurting?"
I am human— Sha'Carri Richardson (@itskerrii) July 1, 2021
After the suspension, which will likely cost Richardson any chance of racing at the Olympics in Tokyo, many pro athletes came to her defense.
In a world where people are literally making millions upon millions growing and selling it! Y'all ever heard of a fine? https://t.co/F3nfvJxVES— DWade (@DwyaneWade) July 2, 2021
This is so trash man... just let her run! https://t.co/tFY8omt215— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) July 2, 2021
Their disbelief and anger comes as there is expansive legalization of marijuana use in the United States; it's either fully legal or allowed for medical use in 45 states. The players' support comes as their leagues have adapted or softened drug-testing rules in relation to marijuana.
In ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan's comprehensive breakdown of league policies, it showed that in April 2020, when the NFL announced its new collective bargaining agreement, it stipulated that players couldn't be punished for using solely marijuana. Major League Baseball tested for marijuana only with "reasonable cause" to do so. The NBA has the harshest penalties for marijuana use, including fines and escalating suspensions. The league, however, doesn't test in the offseason and didn't test last year during the league's pandemic hiatus. In a 2019 interview with Yahoo Sports, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, "Some guys are smoking pot just in the same way a guy would take a drink. And it's like whatever, 'Smoking pot, I'm just using it to come down a little bit or I just want to relax.' No big deal. No issue. And I think it's the reason why it has been legalized in a lot of states. And from that standpoint, if that were the only issue, maybe we're behind the times in our program."
By Friday night, the #LetShaCarriRun movement began trending on Twitter.
A backdated, 30-day ban, could allow Richardson to run in the 4x100-meter relay race at the Olympics on Aug. 6.
"If I'm allowed to receive that blessing [to compete in Tokyo] then I'm grateful for it," Richardson said Friday. "But if not, right now I'm just going to focus on myself."