Sha’Carri Richardson, the American sprinter set to burst onto the international stage at the Tokyo Olympics, has been disqualified from the Game’s 100-meter race after she tested positive for marijuana. She was a bonafide contender for America’s first gold medal in that event since 1996.
Richardson, a 21-year-old Texan with the charisma of a star, accepted a backdated one month suspension and her Olympic-qualifying performance at the U.S. track and field trials in Oregon last month was wiped away. Her ban ends on July 27th, which leaves her eligible to run in the women’s relay race in Tokyo. The final team has not been named.
International regulators recently relaxed the threshold for what constitutes a positive marijuana test; the rules are designed to prevent use on the day of a race. Richardson explained that she smoked following the Oregon trials to cope with the recent death of her biological mother.
“Richardson, who was raised by her grandmother, said she learned about the death from a reporter during an interview and called it triggering and “definitely nerve-shocking,” according to The New York Times.
“It sent me into a state of emotional panic,” she told NBC, adding, “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
Appearing on the TODAY Show, Richard apologized, saying, “As much as I’m disappointed I know that when I step on the track I represent not only myself, I represent a community that has shown great support, great love … I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
ESPN explains how Richardson might still make the relay team:
There are six athletes entered into the 4×100 pool; four are qualifiers based on their performance in the 100-meter individual race and two will be named by USATF, so Richardson could have a chance to participate.
“If I’m allowed to receive that blessing [compete in Tokyo] then I’m grateful for it,” Richardson said. “But if not, right now I’m just going to focus on myself.”
Just two weeks ago, The Washington Post wrote a glowing profile of Richardson, anticipating that she’d become one of America’s biggest stars:
Start reckoning with Richardson now. Start learning how to pronounce her name — it’s sha-KERRY — and start learning her personality because she will be happy to show it. Get used to her Technicolor hair and perfect stride, her elegant eyelashes and her bold proclamations, her blazing times and her unapologetic attitude, brash and bubbly at the same time.
Even if Richardson misses the Tokyo Games, she vows to keep perusing her Olympic dreams:
“This is just one Games. I’m 21, I’m very young. … I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in and I have plenty of talent that backs me up, because everything I do comes from me naturally. No steroid, no anything,” she told TODAY. “This incident was about marijuana, so after my sanction is up I’ll be back and able to compete, and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”