The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has responded back to Democratic Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez following her plea to the International Olympics Committee to “re-consider” Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension from the Tokyo Olympics.
The star sprinter was slammed with a one-month ban from the competition after she tested positive for marijuana. The devastating news comes just a month after her record-breaking win at the Eugene, Oregan trials on June 19th where Richardson dominated the 100-m dash in just 10.86 seconds.
AOC among a slew of celebrities and politicians took to social media to support the 21-year-old Dallas athlete amid the controversy.
“The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy,” wrote AOC on July 2. “The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use.”
The United States Anti-Doping Agency addressed the situation in a letter to both Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamie Raskin on July 9, writing that the decision to remove Richard from the competition was “heartbreaking,” and that the “rules concerning marijuana must change.” The USADA noted that while they don’t play a direct hand in voting against the stringent rules, that they are “required to enforce them.”
The agency said that they have fought for more “flexible and fair” rules in regards to marijuana use among athletes in the past and that they will continue to “advocate for change moving forward.”
Raskin and the social justice lawmaker penned a letter to the USADA and WADA earlier this month asking for the committee to remove Sha’Carri’s suspension.
“We are also concerned that the continued prohibition of marijuana while your organizations allow recreational use of alcohol and other drugs reflects anti-drug laws and policies that have historically targeted Black and Brown communities while largely condoning drug use in white communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “Anti-marijuana laws have a particularly ugly history of systemic racism.”
However, in The World Anti-Doping Agency’s response to both parties, the organization noted that marijuana has long been prohibited by the Olympics.
Witold Banka who is the president for WADA went on to clarify that the USADA was responsible for Richardson’s suspension, not the worldwide agency.
“While we sympathize with the circumstances of this case and applaud Ms. Richardson’s accountability for accepting that the rules are in place for athletes worldwide, WADA simply plays a coordinating role in the development and publication of the prohibited list,” Banka wrote.
“As you correctly note in your letter, the testing of Ms. Richardson and her resulting suspension were administered and adjudicated by the USADA,” Banka continued. “WADA is not a party to that particular matter and therefore simply is not in a position to vacate the results of Ms. Richardon’s test in Oregon …”
Banka added that marijuana has been a prohibited substance on the list for over four years now.
According to WADA’s list of prohibited substances, THC which is a chemical derived from marijuana is classified as a “Substance of Abuse” along with cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin, according to the New York Post.