*(Via Insider) Millions of people fell in love with Sha’carri Richardson after she took America’s Olympic track and field qualifiers by storm and gave an incredibly endearing interview afterwards, emitting a kind of excitement that can only be described as contagious.
In addition to becoming the fastest woman in America, the 21-year-old soon also became an inspiration for Black people, having completed the Olympian effort while making sure to embrace style — donning an orange wig and long acrylic nails.
But on July 2, it was announced that she would be suspended for 30 days due to testing positive for marijuana. The suspension means she almost certainly won’t be able to compete in the individual 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics, where she had a great chance to win the US a gold medal.
In the viral interview post-qualifier, Sha’carri explodes with joy, screaming “I’m going to Tokyo!” But unfortunately for her, the regulators of the sports world have stifled this triumph. They’ve been busy attempting to limit the success of Black athletes — especially women.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which regulates the Olympics’ substance policy, cannabinoids meet at least two of three criteria for prohibited substances: it either “poses a health risk,” has the potential to “enhance performance,” or it violates the “spirit of sport.”
But what better example of the “spirit of sport” is there than Sha’carri’s record-breaking run and emotional speech afterwards? Her product — the talent and the aesthetic — not only impressed established track fanatics, but also brought in scores of new fans. For the Olympic Committee to put out the fire she sparked is more of a violation of the “spirit of sport” than cannabis could ever be, especially considering Sha’carri’s ownership of her “mistake,” and her explanation that the marijuana was a coping mechanism used in the wake of the recent death of her mother.
The policing of cannabis in sports is a perpetuation of the racist policing of the drug in the country in general. Black people are arrested much more often than white people despite usage rates being similar and the cost of prohibition has disproportionately fallen on Black Americans. In sports, the crime and the punishment is equally as arbitrary.
Sha’carri is far from the only Black woman athlete being reprimanded for being herself. Consider Simone Biles, one of the most prolific gymnasts ever.
Get the rest of this commentary at Insider.