Athlete Sha’Carri Richardson has been suspended and barred from running in the Olympic Games in Tokyo after testing positive for marijuana. Following the reporting of her suspension from competition, NORML issued the following statements:
“In the past, it has never made much sense for marijuana use outside of competition to be a disqualifying factor for athletes. In 2021, at a time when marijuana use is legally accepted in a growing number of US states and around the world, it makes exactly zero sense for regulators to continue to take punitive actions against athletes like Sha’Carri Richardson or anyone else who chooses to consume cannabis in their off-hours,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Sha’Carri Richardson, like millions of her fellow Americans, turned to cannabis’ therapeutic benefits to help her cope with the tragic loss of her mother. To use this as a rationale for denying this athlete, who is otherwise competing at the top of her sport, the ability to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics should be an unacceptable outcome in this situation. Let Richardson race.”
While in this situation it was determined Richardson’s marijuana consumption did not occur immediately prior to any of her competitions, more broadly marijuana as a substance has never demonstrated notable performance-enhancing qualities.
“While a growing number of athletes have reported turning to cannabis and its components as an alternative to certain prescription drugs (e.g., opioids), there exists no scientific consensus that the acute effects of marijuana enhance athletic performance. It is also highly unlikely that top-level athletes are consuming cannabis prior to taking part in athletic competitions,” stated NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “Unfortunately, conventional drug screening can only identify the presence of past marijuana use — which may be indicative of exposure some days, weeks, or even months beforehand. In other words, these tests are more about identifying those who may choose to consume cannabis in their off-time to relax rather than they are about identifying athletes seeking an unfair competitive advantage.”