Olympic sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s hopes of winning an Olympic 100-meter gold medal this summer may have vanished after it was reported Thursday that she tested positive for marijuana.
Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Richardson faces a 30-day suspension, which means she won’t be able to compete more than 100 meters in Tokyo as the finals are scheduled for July 31st. Dragon noted that Richardson may be able to participate in the 4×100 relay, however. The finale of this event is scheduled for August 6th.
After reports of Richardson’s suspension went online, many commentators wondered why Michael Phelps was able to compete in the Olympics after a 2009 photo of him smoking weed from a bong was leaked.
MORE: USA Olympic track and field test results
Here’s how Richardson’s situation compares to Phelps’s:
Was Michael Phelps Suspended For Smoking Weed?
Richardson is reportedly facing a 30-day ban for testing positive for marijuana. Phelps’ penalty kick after the photo leaked was much tougher.
USA Swimming has suspended Phelps from the competition for three months and announced that it will withdraw financial support from him.
However, the aftermath of Phelps’ ban included more than just an inability to keep up. Kellogg announced that it will not renew its expiring sponsorship deal with Phelps.
Another important difference between the Richardson and Phelps cases is timing.
Phelps was suspended in February 2009, six months after the 2008 Olympics and five months before the 2009 World Championships. If Richardson is suspended, the ban would go into effect less than a month before the Tokyo Olympics begin in 2021.
In addition to a possible suspension, Richardson’s 10.86-second time in the Olympic trials would be nullified, the New York Times and several other media outlets reported Thursday. No time Phelps was affected because he never tested positive for marijuana and the photo of him taking blows from the bong came out after the Olympics.
What is the Olympic cannabis policy?
According to the US Anti-Doping Agency, marijuana is banned during competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency, a foundation established by the International Olympic Committee, “unless an athlete has an approved therapeutic exemption” . Consumption of the drug can lead to “anti-doping rule violation and sanctions”. Marijuana is seen as a health risk, a performance-enhancing substance and a violation of the “Spirit of the Sports”. USADA adheres to WADA’s World Anti-Doping Code.
USADA states that an athlete can have cannabis in their system at the time of testing, but the amount cannot exceed 150 nanograms per milliliter (ng / ml). The agency also advises that cannabis can take weeks or months to leave an athlete’s system and that athletes should see a doctor to discuss a release time between their last cannabis use and the date of competition.
WADA lists hashish and marijuana as prohibited forms of cannabinoids, but advises that cannabidiol is an exception.
Athletes can be suspended for up to two years under the WADA code if they test positive for marijuana. According to a November 2020 USADA Opinion for Athletes, the minimum suspension is 30 days if an athlete “can demonstrate that the use of an abusive substance was out of competition and unrelated to athletic performance” and “if the athlete is on a substance abuse program that is approved by the USADA. “