Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) decried the decision to suspend Sha’Carri Richardson from the Olympics last week after the sprinter had tested positive for cannabis in her system.
Cannabis is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, although its use as a performance enhancing drug has been widely doubted.
Richardson was viewed as a contender for the gold medal in the 100 meter sprint, running a time of 10.82 seconds in her qualifying race. After she tested positive for marijuana following the race, she was suspended for one month from international competitions, including the Olympics in Tokyo this year.
Richardson said she had used marijuana (in a state where it is perfectly legal to do so) following the death of her mother just one week before she ran in the qualifiers.
“I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time,” Richardson said on NBC’s “Today” show.
“Don’t judge me, because I am human … I just happen to run a little faster,” Richardson added.
Ocasio-Cortez viewed Richardson’s suspension as demonstrative of institutionalized racist practices that exist within the Olympics.
“The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy. The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday.
The New York congresswoman then went on to criticize the decision of the International Olympic Committee on another matter. “This ruling [Richardson’s ban from the Olympics] along w/ IOC denial of swim caps for natural hair is deeply troubling,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.
That comment references a recent decision by Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), the governing body that oversees international competitive swimming, that a swim cap designed by Soul Cap specifically for swimmers with voluminous hair (particularly Black swimmers), would not be allowed at the summer games this year.
The company said its application for consideration of the specially made swim cap was “rejected on registration,” which means they were not even allowed to appeal the decision. FINA defended the decision by saying that international swimmers “never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration” that Soul Cap had designed, adding that the cap didn’t follow “the natural form of the head.”
Daily Beast columnist Kali Holloway took note of FINA’s rejection of the new swim caps, which came as the organization was also attempting to highlight the achievements of Black swimmers advancing to the summer games.
“With its rejection of a swim cap that provides no advantage to its wearer, FINA admits its lack of interest in racial inclusion and attempts to reassert the normalcy of the white form — and seems hellbent on erasing these elite Black athletes while deeming their existence in an historically white ‘prestige sport’ as somehow unnatural,” Holloway wrote.