Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has accepted a one-month suspension after testing positive for cannabis.

OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was set for a star turn at the Tokyo Olympics this month, could miss the Games after testing positive for marijuana.

Richardson, 21, won the women’s 100-metre race at the U.S. track and field trials in Oregon last month, but her positive test automatically invalidated her result in that marquee event.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced the positive test result Friday morning and said that Richardson had accepted a suspension of one month, starting June 28. That could clear her in time to run in the 4x100 metre relay that takes place later in the Games – if she is named to the U.S. team.

Story continues below advertisement

In an interview with NBC on Friday, Richardson blamed the positive test on her use of marijuana as a way to cope with the unexpected death of her biological mother while she was in Oregon for the Olympic trials. Richardson, who was raised by her grandmother, said she learned about the death from a reporter during an interview and called it triggering and “definitely nerve-shocking.”

“It sent me into a state of emotional panic,” she said. “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”

She apologized to her fans, her family and her sponsors, saying, “I greatly apologize if I let you guys down, and I did.”

USA Track & Field has notified other women who competed in the 100-metre final at the trials about the failed drug test, according to two people with direct knowledge of the information, and several runners have been told that they have moved up a spot in the final standings.

Jenna Prandini, who placed fourth at the trials, has been notified that she will now be one of the three American women running the 100 metres in Tokyo, and Gabby Thomas, who finished fifth at the trials, was named as an alternate for the race, the person said.

Richardson will be eligible to return to competition just before the track and field events at the Games begin July 30. That day’s schedule includes the first qualifying rounds in the women’s 100, an event that now will happen without her.

Early Thursday afternoon, Richardson cryptically tweeted, “I am human.” And on NBC on Friday, she expanded on that thought.

Story continues below advertisement

“I just say, don’t judge me and I am human – I’m you, I just happen to run a little faster,” she said, adding that she expects some people to criticize her marijuana use. “They don’t necessarily understand, and I wouldn’t even call them haters.”

While Richardson’s suspension will be over by the time the Olympic track and field competition begins, the positive test erased her Olympic trials performance in the women’s 100, meaning she will not run in the event. Unlike the Olympic selection processes of some other countries, USA Track & Field’s procedures leave little room for discretion over who qualifies. They dictate that the top three finishers in a given event at the trials qualify for the Olympics, provided their performances reach the Olympic standard.

It is possible that Richardson could still compete in the 4x100-metre relay even if she is ruled out of the individual race. The decision would be up to USA Track & Field, the national governing body of the sport.

Up to six athletes are selected for the country’s relay pool, and four of them must be the top three finishers in the 100 metres at the Olympic trials and the alternate. The governing body names the remaining two members of the relay pool.

In a statement, USA Track & Field said Richardson’s situation “is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved,” but made no mention of whether or how she would compete at the Olympics.

Renaldo Nehemiah, Richardson’s agent, did not respond Thursday to a phone call or a text message.

Story continues below advertisement

Marijuana is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances. Both USADA and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee are signatories to the WADA code, meaning they follow its rules.

“While we are heartbroken, the USOPC is steadfast in its commitment to clean competition and it supports the anti-doping code,” the organization said in a statement Friday morning. “A positive test for any banned substance comes with consequences and we are working with the USATF to determine the appropriate next steps. We are dedicated to providing Sha’Carri the support services she needs during this difficult time.”

Marijuana is banned only during in-competition periods, which are defined as beginning at 11:59 p.m. on the day before a competition and ending at its conclusion. Athletes may have up to 150 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, without causing a positive test.

According to USADA, marijuana is a prohibited substance because it can enhance performance, it poses a health risk to athletes and its use violates the spirit of the sport.

“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; 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,” Travis Tygart, CEO of USADA, said Friday in an e-mailed statement.

A suspension for testing positive for marijuana can be up to two years. The minimum length is a month, if an athlete can prove the use of marijuana was not related to sports performance and if the person completes a substance abuse treatment program. Just last month, USADA suspended Kahmari Montgomery, a sprinter, for one month after he tested positive for marijuana.

Story continues below advertisement

Richardson’s positive test came about a week before the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee needs to submit the names of its athletes competing in Tokyo. And Richardson was not only supposed to be one of them but also was expected to be one of the most recognizable Olympians, at least by the end of the Games.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies