U.S. track superstar may miss Olympics after testing positive for ... marijuana

Rules are rules.

But why should we enforce the rules when there’s no logic behind them?

Sha’Carri Richardson wasn’t just an Olympic hopeful, she was a major threat to take gold in her event and a probable breakout star of the Games due to her flamboyant look. She won the 100-meter sprint at the Olympic trials in Oregon last month, making her the fastest woman in America. During those trials, she sat for an interview with a reporter who asked her how she felt about her biological mother having died recently — which came as news to Richardson. Between the shock of that revelation and the pressure to win, she says she decided to take the edge off by smoking a little weed. That’s a no-no during competitions according to the World Anti-Doping Code, which the U.S. Olympic Committee has adopted. The minimum punishment is a month’s suspension starting from the day of the positive test plus invalidation of the results from any event the athlete competed in while THC was in their system.

Which means not only is Richardson no longer the winner of the 100 meters, she failed to qualify in the event for the Olympics. She can’t run the race in Tokyo because U.S. rules say only the top three official finishers get to compete. Her only shot at participating next month is if the Committee names her to the women’s 4×100-meter relay, which it has discretion to do. (The one-month suspension will have ended by then.)

There are three reasons one might logically disqualify an athlete for using marijuana. One: It’s illegal and we don’t want lawbreakers representing the U.S. abroad. Except it’s not illegal in Oregon. Richardson didn’t violate any statutes there, just the Committee’s doping code.

Two: It might impair the athlete’s judgment on the track and we don’t want them, er, endangering themselves.

How would Richardson endanger herself or anyone else while running the 100 meters while high? Are they worried she might run into someone else’s lane? The rules should allow the Committee some discretion in weighing the “danger” of a particular athlete’s use.

Three: It’s performance-enhancing. Is it, though? If anything, one would think marijuana is performance-detracting in an event determined by speed. She wasn’t on meth, she was on a drug that famously relaxes its users.

Worse, the “scientific” evidence that marijuana enhances athletic performance is an inch thin:

To make it more absurd, the Olympics is happy to promote other intoxicants:

If Richardson had gotten drunk instead after learning of her mother’s death and then sobered up in time to win the 100 meters, I assume she’d still be in good standing. Why is that?

The doping code followed by the Committee as applied to marijuana feels like an artifact left over from the “Reefer Madness” days, not a serious attempt to make sure athletes are competing on a level playing field. I’d be surprised if any of the women who finished behind Richardson in the 100 meters would claim that she owes her victory to smoking before the race. At a minimum, the Committee should amend its rules to give it more leeway in deciding how to punish an athlete who breaks them. They don’t need to let Richardson off scot-free for her violation, but depriving her of her chance at gold because of it is a case of the punishment not fitting the crime. Let her run, then suspend her for a month or whatever after the Games.

If reason can’t lead them to that conclusion, maybe TV networks’ financial interests will. Here’s Richardson discussing her mistake with NBC this morning.