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Explained: American Sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson’s Ban Sheds Light on Why Olympics are Harder on Marijuana Than Other Sports

Sha'Carri Richardson  (AFP)

Sha'Carri Richardson (AFP)

Even though sports leagues are slowly adjusting to the reality that cannabis or marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, it remains on the banned list for Olympic sports.

American champion sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was expected to be one of the biggest draws at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, will miss the 100 metres at the Games after accepting a one-month ban for testing positive for cannabis during her U.S. Olympic trials victory last month. Even though sports leagues are slowly adjusting to the reality that cannabis/marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, it remains on the banned list for Olympic sports. Due to this reality Richardson will miss her Tokyo 100m berth this month, as the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) confirmed the month-long suspension on Friday.

There has been a serious discussion about using marijuana can result in a ban under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code doing rounds. Both WADA and USADA have made it clear on their official websites that all synthetic and naturally occurring compounds/cannabinoids are prohibited in-competition. However, international regulators relaxed the threshold for athletes and they can get away if he or she has below 150 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml) of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in urine.

And there is an exception to the rule, as Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound used in medicinal/recreational marijuana was removed from the prohibited list by WADA in 2019, as CBD unlike THC does not give a high and it has anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant properties among others. But the agency also warns athletes from using CBD as an oil as ‘it may also contain THC and other cannabinoids that could result in a positive test for a prohibited cannabinoid,’ on their website.

Meanwhile, Richardson in a cryptic tweet earlier on Thursday wrote “I am human.”

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Richardson positive at the Olympic trials and her results have been annulled, instead of Richardson, fourth-place finisher Jenna Prandini is expected to get her spot in the 100 metres race. However, the 21-year old may still have a chance of participating in the Olympic relay events. Richardson’s 30-day suspension ends July 27 and the women’s 100m event in Tokyo starts on July 30, two days after Richardson’s ban ends, which would be in time to run in the women’s relays.

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first published:July 03, 2021, 18:24 IST