Sha'Carri Richardson's Marijuana Suspension Highlights Double Standards

Sha'Carri Richardson's Marijuana Suspension Highlights Double Standards

The suspension of American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has sparked a large online conversation about double standards in sports.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that the US Anti-Doping Agency handed the sprinter — a favorite to win the Olympic 100m gold medal — a 30-day suspension after she tested positive for a chemical found in marijuana. This means that despite qualifying for Team USA, her results from last month's Olympic trials have been "disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points, and prizes," per a USADA statement.

However, the suspension and resulting disqualification from her main event has since incurred intense backlash, with many arguing that penalizing marijuana usage made no sense given its increasing legality in many states and the perception that it's not a substance that affects performance. And while the publication also noted that track sometimes considers weed a performance-enhancing drug as it can theoretically relax competitors prior to competition, even more people opined that Richardson's suspension still didn't hold up seeing as how "pot doesn't make a sprinter faster."

That said, Richardson's case also led commenters to question the obvious double standards Black women face within professional sports, citing recent examples such as the WTA's recent dismissal of Naomi Osaka's mental health and the banning of several Black women from competitions due to natural testosterone levels, amongst other things.

As for the Olympics itself, many also pointed toward the ban on swim caps designed for natural hair and pre-existing guidelines prohibiting athletes from any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in Olympic venues" (a.k.a. Black Lives Matter apparel) in addition to critical comparisons of the way Michael Phelps was treated after his infamous bong video.

Additionally, the case caused to a number of high-profile sports stars to condemn the USADA's decision, including Damian Lillard, Dwayne Wade and Odell Beckham Jr. Not only that, but several politicians also began to weigh in such as congressional representatives Cori Bush, Barbara Lee, Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who all called for a re-evaluation of Richardson's case and the federal legalization of marijuana.

Granted, Richardson still has a chance to compete in the Olympics, as ESPN also reported that she can still be chosen as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. But even so, the suspension is still (rightfully) rubbing people the wrong way, especially given that Richardson's used marijuana to cope with her mother's death last month.

"I was definitely triggered and blinded by emotions, blinded by badness, and hurting and hiding hurt," she told the Today Show on Friday before adding, "I know I can't hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain."

Watch Richardson's interview for yourself, below.

Photo via Getty / Patrick Smith