As the news has spread, we’ve all seen the suspension and outpouring of support for Olympic runner, Sha’Carri Richardson. No matter if you support cannabis or not, the decision to suspend Richardson is harsh considering the state of cannabis in America today.
Richardson was suspended on July 1 after a positive cannabis test. The 30-day suspension will ultimately prevent her from competing in the Olympics. Last week in a letter to the Civil Rights and Civil liberties committee, WADA further commented on Richardson’s suspension; clarifying that it cannot change the decision but “sympathizes with the circumstances of the case and applauds the sprinter’s accountability for accepting that the rules are in place for athletes worldwide.” They explained that the testing and suspension was the choice of the USADA.
The world was shocked to find the newly dubbed ‘world’s fastest woman’ wouldn’t be running. Richardson publicly admits to consuming earlier this year to cope with the death of her mother. She also notes that she isn’t making excuses for herself and understands why the decision was made. USA Track and Field agrees that the laws need to be changed; especially after more sports are allowing for cannabis consumption. They alternatively admitted how that could be taken as special treatment just weeks before the games start. Regardless, just as it did with athletes in the past, the consequences of cannabis use for any reason are always swift and obnoxiously sharp.
TWO DECADES OF FIGHTING CANNABIS
If you read further into WADA’s statements about Sha’Carri Richardson, they reiterate that the US is one of the strongest and most vocal voices against removing cannabinoids from the Prohibited List. More specifically Ganjaprener shared that WADA has never “received any objection from U.S. stakeholders concerning the inclusion of cannabinoids on the Prohibited List. The meeting minutes and written submissions received from the U.S. over nearly two decades, in particular from [U.S. Anti-Doping Agency], have consistently advocated for cannabinoids to be included on the Prohibited List.”
After U.S. committees pressed to have the decision overturned, WADA also justified the suspensions as not burdening the civil liberties of competitors with the limits for triggering positive tests and only testing during competition. To test positive at the agency’s standards, the limit is 180ng/mL, increased from 15ng/mL in 2003. To explain further, WADA referred to a 2006 study from the National Drug Court Institute:
“…an athlete who occasionally uses cannabis, even days before a competition, would be extremely unlikely to test positive with this decision limit.”
According to the same study, more frequent users would take longer for cannabinoids to leave their system. With that fact, we all can agree it will take more than a few days for cannabis to leave your system, even for occasional consumers. Additionally, most would agree that cannabinoids do not go against the agency’s criteria.
1. Has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance
2. Represents an actual or potential health risk to the Athlete
3. Violates the spirit of sport (outlined in the Code)World Anti-Doping Agency, PROHIBITED LIST OF SUBSTANCES AND METHODS
ISLAND OF CANNABIS PROHIBITION
Despite their claims, the guidelines still obsess over an athlete’s cannabis consumption outside of competition. As the letter stated, the World Anti-Doping Agency is not able to change the decisions of the USADA or USA Track and Field. However, they also affirmed that the US isn’t as pro-cannabis as it makes itself out to be. While other countries follow a lot of what the United States does on various substances on the CSA, the same could go for the Olympics. Our refusal to petition for the removal of cannabinoids from the Prohibited List could easily be influencing other countries to, begrundly, take the same approach.
Ironically, this revelation does mirror the on-and-off-again interest that legislators seem to have with cannabis. Let’s hope for both Sha’Carri Richardson and other athlete’s sake they will make up their minds.