U.S. sprints star Sha'Carri Richardson appeared on the Today show Friday morning after reports that she tested positive for marijuana and could face an anti-doping suspension.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency announced Richardson has accepted a one-month ban for her positive test that started June 28. Her results from the Olympic trials have been disqualified. Her eligibility for the Tokyo Olympics is determined by the USOPC and/or USATF.
The 21-year-old won the women’s 100 meters in 10.86 seconds at the U.S. Olympic for track and field in Oregon last month. She crossed the finish line and ran into the stands to embrace her grandmother and celebrate her first Olympic team berth. In her postrace interview with NBC, she revealed that her biological mother died about a week before competing at the meet.
A few days before the trials, Richardson learned about her mother's death during an interview with a reporter. She later ingested marijuana while in Oregon for the U.S. Olympic Trials. She said the moment she learned of the death was "triggering" and "nerve-shocking" and sent her into an emotional panic.
“I want to take responsibility for my actions," Richardson said. "I know what I did and what I’m not supposed to do. I know what I'm not allowed to do and I still made that decision. Not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case but being in that position of my life and finding out something like that—something that I would say has impacted my life positively and negatively in my life when it comes to dealing with the relationship with my mother—that definitely was a heavy topic on me."
“To have to go out into the world and put on a face—who am I to tell you how to cope?” she added.
Richardson tested positive for marijuana, which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and United States Anti-Doping Agency in-competition period. The threshold for an athlete to have THC in their system in competition without it causing a positive test is 150 nanograms per milliliter. According to WADA: “Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.” Athletes who test positive for marijuana can face a maximum suspension of up to two years and a minimum of one month.
In June, USADA announced that sprinter Kahmari Montgomery was suspended for one month following a positive test for marijuana during an in-competition test at a meet in Florida. Montgomery’s suspension was reduced to one month since his out-of-competition cannabis use was unrelated to sports performance and he completed a counseling program. Richardson's use also occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sports performance. She has also already successfully completed a counseling program regarding her use of cannabis.
Richardson was looking to become the United States' first gold medalist in the 100 meters since 1996. She burst onto the scene winning the 2019 NCAA title in a collegiate record of 10.75 seconds. She lowered that personal best to 10.72 in April for the sixth-fastest wind-legal time ever. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has the fastest time in the world in 2021 with a 10.63 from earlier in June. She is looking to win her third Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters after winning in '08 and '12.
According to the Times, USA Track and Field has notified Jenna Prandini, who finished fourth in the Olympic trials women’s 100 meter final, that she will now also run the 100 meters in Tokyo. Gabby Thomas, the fifth-place finisher, has been named as the alternate for the race. Prandini and Thomas also qualified for Tokyo in the 200 meters.
If Richardson gets the minimum one-month ban, she could still be named to the United States’ 4x100-meter relay team depending on a selection by USA Track and Field.
"Right now I'm just putting all of my time and energy into dealing with what I need to do to heal myself," Richardson said.
USA Track and Field issued the following statement regarding Richardson after her appearance on the Today show: "Sha’Carri Richardson’s situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved. Athlete health and well-being continue to be one of USATF’s most critical priorities and we will work with Sha’Carri to ensure she has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future."
Richardson was set to compete in the 200 meters at the Stockholm Diamond League on Sunday but withdrew from the meet this week.