An idiotic and antiquated policy will prevent us from cheering on Sha’Carri Richardson, an LGBTQ Olympian who is on the cusp of superstardom.
And that is downright infuriating.
Richardson, who has captured America’s hearts with her soul-stirring backstory and fiery orange hair, has been suspended one month after testing positive for marijuana. Despite being decriminalized in most U.S. states, the World Anti-Doping Agency still deems THC to be a “substance of abuse.”
As a result of this stupidity, Richardson’s victory at the 100-meter race in the U.S. Women’s Track and Field Olympic Trials was invalidated, striking her from the event in Tokyo. On Tuesday, USA Track and Field disqualified Richardson from competing in the 4x100 meter relay as well.
There are many reasons why this is outrageous, beginning with the fact it is within state law to buy and consume recreational marijuana in 18 states plus D.C., and 36 additional states have approved medical marijuana.
That’s right: one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement in this country is that weed is OK — albeit to varying degrees.
Also, though marijuana is shown to possibly help athletes recover from training, it is not a performance-enhancer on the level of steroids or other PEDs. That would seem to be an important detail to consider for the organization charged with regulating drug use in global sports, but I digress.
It’s disgraceful whenever an Olympic hopeful gets their dreams derailed due to WADA’s anachronistic policies, but Richardson’s disqualification is especially crushing. She was emerging as a hero for the LGBTQ community, and now we may not get to see her compete.
WADA is taking away a potential icon for LGBTQ people, all because she smoked weed in Oregon, where the state government has given a thumbs up for its use.
There will be a record number of publicly out LGBTQ Olympians in Tokyo, and we look forward to telling you all about them as the Games approach. Their stories are uplifting and show you can be LGBTQ and achieve your dreams — oftentimes better than you could before.
In a country where 8.3 percent of LGBTQ youth reported attempting suicide over the last year, that is a powerful message.
And Richardson is one empowering person.
Let’s start off with this: Black LGBTQ women are woefully underrepresented in popular culture. The nation cheered on Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy. And now, they were getting ready to cheer on Richardson.
We may never see that now.
Richardson’s presence alone is a powerful symbol, and that’s before you even look at her fierce orange locks. When asked about her decision to adopt the bold color for the race, Richardson nonchalantly said her girlfriend picked it.
“She said it, like, spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that’s who I am,” Richardson said.
How awesome is that? The fact that her girlfriend chose her hair color hardly reached the headlines. Not too long ago, it would’ve been the dominant sports story of Pride Month.
Now, it’s just a cool anecdote.
Richardson is inspiring for reasons other than her ever-changing hair colors. After she won the 100-meter race, she immediately sprinted to the stands and embraced her grandmother.
It was an All-American image, right up there with the two kids and white-picket fence.
THIS is what it's all about.@itskerrii is headed to the Olympics, and she immediately ran into the stands to celebrate with her family.@usatf | #TokyoOlympics x #TrackFieldTrials21 pic.twitter.com/MjvZmmOKPg— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) June 20, 2021
The moment was especially emotional because Richardson’s biological mother died about a week before the trials, she revealed Friday on “The Today Show.”
A reporter was the first person who told her the news. Can you imagine that?
Your mother dies, and some stranger with a tape recorder is the one who breaks the news to you? And then you still go on to win the 100-meter race at your Olympic trials?
Richardson says she used marijuana to cope.
“To put on a face and have to go in front of the world, and hide my pain, who am I to tell you how to cope?,” she said. “When you’re dealing with pain or a struggle that you’ve never experienced before, who am I to tell you how to cope?”
Well, WADA told her. And yet, Richardson is the one apologizing.
“I just, honestly, want to take responsibility for my actions,” she said. “I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do, and I still made that decision. I’m not making an excuse and I’m not looking for any empathy in my case.”
Richardson gets more than our empathy. She gets our full-fledged support, and love. She is one brave woman who’s living her truth — right down to her hair color.
WADA’s abominable policy shouldn’t take that away from her, and we shouldn’t let it.