When Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati lost his giant slalom gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics after testing positive for marijuana, it became a joke overnight. “Unlike Clinton, you inhaled but didn’t smoke,” Jay Leno joked. Tonight’s show an extremely ’90s one-liner referencing Rebagliati’s claims that his positive result was due to secondhand smoke.
But it was a few years later, in 2002, that Robin Williams really hit the mark. “The only way [marijuana is] a performance enhancing drug, “said the comedian in defense of Rebagliati,” that’s if there’s a big Hershey bar at the end of the race. “
Now, some 23 years after Rebagliati’s humiliation, the Olympic dreams of sprint phenomenon Sha’Carri Richardson are also under threat. The 21-year-old was reported to have tested positive for THC, the main psychoactive agent in marijuana, during U.S. athletics trials in Eugene, Oregon, last month, where she finished. first in 10.86 seconds in the 100-meter dash made her a favorite for gold in Tokyo. But Richardson’s disqualification is no laughing matter, and it’s a shame that such unnecessary rules are still in place. She deserves to run.
Aside from returning Olympians Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky, there was probably no American athlete more anticipated in Tokyo than Richardson. Hailing from South Dallas, Richardson’s fiery orange hair, non-aerodynamic lashes and acrylic Flo-Jo nails are only surpassed by his personality, which is a charismatic blend of certainly and fearing God. “She rarely walks past a camera without taking the opportunity to wink, smile, scold, point a finger, show a peace sign, or send a kiss.” The Washington Post admired. Her reaction after winning the 100 meters and becoming an Olympian f-king went viral after telling the reporter: “I want the world to know that I am this girl.”
But by appearing on the Today To respond to news of his disqualification from the Olympic 100 meters on Friday, Richardson struggled to hold back tears. However, she stressed to viewers that she was not looking for any excuse: “I want to take responsibility for my actions,” she said.
Richardson also alluded to the death of his birth mother during the trials, a fact she had kept a secret until she revealed it to a blind NBC reporter during her post-race interview. “Being in this position of my life and finding out something like that – something that I would say had a positive and negative impact on my life in terms of the relationship with my mom – was definitely a heavy topic for me. me, “Richardson explained to Today. “To have to go out into the world and put on a face. Who am I to tell you how to face?”
Richardson would be the last person to say an exception should be made for her. Addressing the possibility that American athletics could still send her to Tokyo to run in the 4×100-meter relay, even if she is disqualified from the individual race, she said simply, “I’m grateful, but if not, I’m just going to focus on myself.” Yet even though the rules are rules, the injustice of America’s fastest woman not allowed to compete in the Olympics because she used a drug she was legal to use in Oregon is hard to overcome. And that raises the obvious question of why marijuana is a banned substance in the first place.
When Rebagliati was stripped of his gold in 1998, the Olympics finally restored his medal after realizing that marijuana was technically not on their list of banned substances at the time. The Olympics changed that oversight by adding marijuana to the list in 1999, the same year the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established to help establish consistency in banned substances around the world. In 2013, WADA raised his threshold for a disqualifying positive THC test of 15 nanograms per milliliter of urine at 150 ng / ml, to account for the fact that the substance is only meant to be banned during the actual period of competition.
Athletes, however, have long protested that marijuana is not a performance enhancing drug and that users do not have an unfair advantage over their competition. The decision to ban athletes from using weed appears to be largely a moral or image-related policy: the International Olympic Committee initially banned cannabinoids for “their illegality and because they violate it. “spirit of sport” “. according to USA today. But attitudes have changed towards drugs since the 1990s. The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 18 states and DC, as well as in Canada, where WADA is based.
“I don’t know if the CIO was looking at it from a social point of view or because it was against the law, but I think now the responsible thing to do is to look at it from a point of view. non-ideological and realize the benefits, ”Rebagliati said. , who now works in the cannabis industry, Told Reuters in 2018. Or, to quote Illustrated sports, “If the pot made a person run faster, Woody Harrelson would be Usain Bolt… How about some common sense here?”
Like Sha’Carri Richardson said Today, “I know what I’ve done and what I’m not supposed to do. I know what I’m not allowed to do, and I’ve made that decision anyway.” Even so, the fact that she won’t be allowed to compete in her renowned Olympic run because she used marijuana before the biggest event of her life, while mourning her mom – taking a shot tequila, which is not a substance prohibited by WADA, would have been theoretically allowed – is nonsense.
Richardson deserved better, and the only joke is the rules.