(C) Reuters. Athletics – Diamond League – Gateshead – Gateshead International Stadium, Gateshead, Britain – May 23, 2021 Sha’Carri Richardson of the U.S. celebrates winning her women’s 100m heat REUTERS/Lee Smith
By Kayon Raynor
KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) -American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson has accepted a one-month suspension after testing positive for cannabis, the United States Anti-Doping Agency said on Friday, ruling her out of the 100 metres in Tokyo although she may yet be able to run in later relay events.
The positive test came at the U.S. Olympic trials last month where Richardson established herself as a gold medal contender by winning the 100m in 10.86 seconds.
“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.
“Hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her.”
Richardson said in an NBC Interview on the Today Show on Friday that her action came during the trials while she was dealing with the news of the death of her mother.
“Like I tweeted yesterday, I’m human. We are human, I want to be as transparent as possible with you guys whether it’s good, whether it’s bad,” the American sprinter said.
“But when it comes to Sha’Carri Richardson there will never be a steroid attached to the name Sha’Carri Richardson. The charge and what the situation was marijuana.”
A 30-day ban backdated to the time of the adverse result could leave Richardson, the fastest American woman this year with a time of 10.72 seconds, clear to race in the 4x100m relay at the Olympics in the first week of August, if she is selected by USATF.
“Sha’Carri Richardson’s situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved,” USATF said.
“Athlete health and well-being continue to be one of USATF’s most critical priorities and we will work with Sha’Carri to ensure she has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future.”
‘I HAVE PLENTY OF GAMES LEFT’
Quizzed as to whether she was hoping to get a chance to compete in the relay in Tokyo, Richardson said: “Right now I’m just putting all of my time and energy into dealing with what I need to deal with to heal myself.
“So if I’m allowed to take that place (at the Olympics) I would be grateful for it but if not, right now I’m going to focus on myself.
“This is just one (Olympic) Games, I’m 21, I’m very young. Unlike most, I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in and I have plenty of talent that backs me up because everything I do comes from me naturally, no steroid, no anything.
“This incident was about marijuana, so after my sanction is up I’ll be back and able to compete and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”
A positive test during the trials would mean all of Richardson’s results from the meet would be wiped out, voiding her victory in the 100m final.
Cannabis is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but if athletes can prove that their ingestion of the substance was unrelated to sports performance, then a suspension of three months rather than the usual four years is imposed.
If an athlete is willing to undertake an approved treatment programme in collaboration with their national anti-doping body, then the ban can be reduced to one month.
Richardson could also appeal any sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), as could any other sports body who felt a punishment was too lenient.
The Texan was aiming to become the first American woman to win the Olympic 100m title since Gail Devers in 1996 after posting 10.72 seconds in April — one of her five runs under 11 seconds this season.
Richardson has come under fire previously for working with coach Dennis Mitchell, the former Olympic 100m finalist and relay gold medallist who served a two-year ban for excess testosterone.
Athletics-Sprinter Richardson suspended for one month after cannabis test, to miss Tokyo 100m event