July 2, 2021

Athlete Sha’Carri Richardson Tests Positive for Cannabis

July 2, 2021
Sha'Carri Richardson

American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson could miss the Olympic Games at the end of this month after testing positive for cannabis. She won the women’s 100-meter race at the U.S. track and field trials in Oregon last month, but her positive test automatically invalidated her win from that event. Her suspension could be as short as one month.

This brings to light the troubling issue of athletes who are STILL being persecuted for their cannabis use, when obviously they are carrying on just fine in their professions. And those of us who are regular cannabis users are very well aware that this plant should definitely NOT be placed in the same category as other “performance enhancing drugs.”

The Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine, the nation’s only medical association for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) health professionals and healers released the following statement in response to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s suspension of Sha’Carri Richard following a positive cannabis test:

“As health professionals, scientists, and healers that champion health equity, ACHEM is appalled by the suspension of Sha’Carri Richardson and the voiding of her win in the 100-meter qualifying race at the Olympic Trials as a result of her positive drug screen for THC. The World Anti-Doping Code prohibits the use of cannabinoids other than CBD in competition. Yet, Ms. Richardson is being punished for a drug screen that cannot prove current cannabis use, only that cannabis has been used sometime in the recent past. Ms. Richardson acknowledges using cannabis for mental health support a week before the trials, an activity that is fully within her rights as a human, an international athlete, and as a visitor to the state of Oregon where the adult use of cannabis is legal. 

Despite outdated national and international rules and regulations, cannabis is medicine by virtue of its activity on the endocannabinoid system. Cannabis can hardly be described as a performance enhancing drug, though its support of the endocannabinoid system certainly offers general health and wellness benefits, and it is shameful that USATF continues to uphold non-scientific and punitive rules at the expense of the mental and physical wellbeing of its athletes. 

ACHEM calls on USATF to immediately rescind Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension and to revalidate her victory at the Olympic Trials, enabling her to fulfill the honor she won to compete in the women’s 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics.”

For more information about ACHEM, visit its website.

Richardson posted “I am human” to her Twitter account shortly after finding out about the failed drug test.

There is no reason why athletes should still have to adhere to these rules. Cannabis is medicine.

Even though fewer of the major U.S. sports no longer test for cannabis, Olympic athletes still are.

With the NFL deciding to pivot from significant punishment for positive marijuana tests towards an approach that focuses on treatment and education, the league has begun mirroring not only new reforms to legislation in many states but also public sentiment on how marijuana usage should be viewed….a Gallup poll from November 2020 cited that 68% of Americans now support legalization.  

Remember…it’s just a plant!!

Under the World Anti Doping Association rules (WADA) followed by the International Olympic committees, cannabis is banned as a “performance enhancing stimulant,” as stated in 2014 by Arne Ljungqvist, a former WADA vice president. WADA legalized CBD for athletes in 2019 but still bans THC, despite criticism from athletes and the general public.

Sha'Carri Richardson
Sha’Carri Richardson celebrates after winning the first heat of the semifinals in the women’s 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
Associated Press photo by Ashley Landis

The news was first reported by the Jamaica Gleaner citing anonymous sources, but Richardson’s suspension was later confirmed by Cincinnati Enquirer sports reporter Tyler Dragon. This comes well after Richardson had gained the support of so many, including Michelle Obama.


We support Richardson as an athlete and hope to see her continued success, and hope this incident will bring more conversations about cannabis use and legalization to the table for other professional athletes and their organizations.


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