Sha’Carri Richardson suspended for a month after testing positive for marijuana

American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was set to star at the Tokyo Olympics this month, could miss the Games after testing positive for marijuana.

Richardson, 21, won the women’s 100 meters at the US track and field trials in Oregon last month, but her positive test automatically invalidated her result in the high-profile event.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency announced the positive result of the test on Friday morning and said Richardson had accepted a one-month suspension, effective June 28. That could clear her in time to run in the 4×100-meter relay that will take place later in the Games – if she is named to the US team.

In an interview with NBC on Friday, Richardson blamed testing positive on her marijuana use as a way to deal with the unexpected death of her birth mother while in Oregon for Olympic trials. Richardson, who was raised by her grandmother, said she learned of the death of a reporter during an interview and called it a trigger and “certainly shocking to the nerves.”

“It put me in a state of emotional panic,” she said, adding, “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during this time.”

She apologized to her fans, family and sponsors, saying, “I apologize very much if I let you down, and I did.”

USA Track & Field informed other women who competed in the 100-meter final during trials about drug test failure, according to two people with direct knowledge of the information, and several runners were informed that they had won a place in the final ranking.

Jenna Prandini, who placed fourth in practice, has been told she will now be one of three Americans to race the 100 in Tokyo, and Gabby Thomas, who finished fifth in practice, has been named a substitute for the race, people mentionned.

Richardson will be eligible to return to competition just prior to the start of track and field events at the Games on July 30. Today’s schedule includes the first rounds of qualifying for the women’s 100m, an event that will now take place without her.

Early Thursday afternoon, Richardson cryptically tweeted: “I’m human.” And on NBC Friday, she expanded on that thought.

“I’m just saying don’t judge me and I’m human – I’m you I just happen to run a little faster,” she said, adding that she expects some people to criticize. his use of marijuana. “They don’t necessarily understand, and I wouldn’t even call them hateful.”

While Richardson’s suspension will be over by the time the Olympic track and field competition begins, the positive test has erased her performance at the Women’s 100 Olympic Trials, meaning she will not compete in the event. Unlike the Olympic selection processes of some other countries, USA Track & Field procedures leave little room for discretion over who qualifies. They dictate that the top three in a given practice event qualify for the Olympics, provided their performance meets Olympic standard.

It is possible that Richardson could still compete in the 4×100-meter relay even though she is excluded from the individual race. The decision would lie with USA Track & Field, the sport’s national governing body.

Up to six athletes are selected for the country’s relay group, and four of them must be the top three in the 100 meters at the Olympic Trials and as a substitute. The governing body appoints the other two members of the relay pool.

In one declaration, USA Track & Field said Richardson’s situation “is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved,” but made no mention of whether or how she would compete in the Olympics.

Richardson’s agent Renaldo Nehemiah did not respond to a phone call or text on Thursday.

Marijuana is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances. USADA and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee are both signatories to the AMA code, which means they follow its rules.

“Although we are heartbroken, the USOPC is steadfast in its commitment to clean competition and supports the anti-doping code,” the organization said in a statement Friday morning. “Testing positive for any banned substance has consequences and we are working with the USATF to determine the appropriate next steps. We are committed to providing Sha’Carri with the support services she needs during this difficult time.

Marijuana is prohibited only during competition times, which are defined as starting at 11:59 p.m. the day before a competition and ending at its end. Athletes can have up to 150 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, without causing a positive test.

According to USADA, marijuana is a banned substance because it can improve performance, poses a health risk to athletes, and its use violates the spirit of the sport.

“The rules are clear, but it’s heartbreaking on many levels; Hopefully her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example for all of us that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of them for her, ”said on Friday Travis Tygart, CEO of the USADA, in an emailed statement. .

A suspension for a positive marijuana test can be up to two years. The minimum duration is one month, if an athlete can prove that marijuana use was unrelated to athletic performance and if the person completes a drug treatment program. Last month, USADA suspended Kahmari Montgomery, a sprinter, for a month after testing positive for marijuana.

Richardson’s positive test came about a week before the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee was due to submit the names of its athletes competing in Tokyo. And Richardson was not only supposed to be one of them, but also one of the most recognizable Olympians, at least by the end of the Games.

She dominated the opening weekend of Trials, drawing attention to her scintillating performances, her long orange hair (“to make sure I’m visible and seen,” she said) and a moment moving when she sprinted into the stands to hug her grandmother.

Her 10.86-second victory made her an instant favorite to win gold in Tokyo and set up a much-anticipated Olympics showdown with Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the 100 at the last world championships. Richardson clocked the second fastest 100 this year, behind Fraser-Pryce, and in April clocked the sixth fastest time ever.

“This will be the last time the United States doesn’t walk away with a gold in the 100,” Richardson told NBC.

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