Last week, after testing positive for marijuana in her system following a qualifying race for the Olympics, Sha’Carri Richardson, who is considered the fastest woman sprinter in the U.S., was suspended from competing in the sport, ending her chances of being able to do so as an individual in the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
This week, any chances of her competing at all in the Olympics were officially ended, as Richardson was not selected to be part of any of Team USA’s relay squads either — this, in spite of the fact that her suspension period would have been completed by the time the relay race was going to be run.
USA Track and Field (USATF) officials could have technically placed Richardson on the team. The one-month suspension the star runner was subjected to for testing positive for cannabis, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency despite its not being a performance-enhancing drug, would have ended prior to the 4×100-meter relay race. Coaches for Team USA are also allowed to pick at least two athletes for the relay regardless of their performance at the sprinting trials, reported The New York Times.
But coaches have already picked the athletes slated to run in that race. After Richardson was disqualified from her individual event, the next six-fastest runners were selected for the relay team. The coaches have said it would be unfair to those runners to replace them with Richardson instead.
“All USATF athletes are equally aware of and must adhere to the current antidoping code, and our credibility as the national governing body would be lost if rules were only enforced under certain circumstances,” a statement from USATF said. “So while our heartfelt understanding lies with Sha’Carri, we must also maintain fairness for all of the athletes who attempted to realize their dreams by securing a place on the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team.”
Richardson did not petition to be on the relay squad. However, that did not stop people from criticizing the treatment she has received at the hands of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
“Richardson should be dazzling fans with her infectious personality and unapologetic boldness at these Olympic Games,” Deadspin columnist Donovan Dooley wrote in a recent column. “She should be running her way directly into the hearts of people around the world. But she won’t.”
Others noted the inherent racism behind placing cannabis on the list of banned substances to begin with.
“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,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said in a tweet last Friday.
In her comments last week, Ocasio-Cortez also took issue with a decision by the governing body that oversees international swimming. The Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) recently banned the use of swim caps made by a company called Soul Cap, which were specifically designed for swimmers with Black hair.
The swim cap in question gives swimmers no competitive advantage, but FINA banned their use because they said swimmers “never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration” that Soul Cap had designed, and that the cap didn’t follow “the natural form of the head.”
However, following backlash from fans and critics from around the globe, FINA announced this week that it would be “reviewing” that decision.
“FINA is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage,” the organization said in a statement.