IAAF suspension of Sha'Carri Richardson is beyond stupid but not a surprise
Welcome to 2021 where a certain percentage of the American Public still believes or wants to think we should be living like it is 1978.
Like everyone else who follows sports, I've been reading up on the ridiculously stupid suspension of the best woman's sprinter currently in the U.S. Sha'Carri Richardson. Richardson was suspended after a drug test found traces of an element found in marijuana.
The USATF did not include Richardson in any way shape or form in their announced roster for the upcoming Olympic Games.
The Track Federation has to abide by International rules regarding such tests which require a suspension because somebody, somewhere put in rules claiming marijuana or any of the trace elements could be construed as a "performance enhancing substance".
Yes, really, it's true.
Now, the ITAF will tell you their "punishment" for such violations has moderated over the years, which is correct. But it doesn't take away the, um, mixed message being sent.
For their part the USATF released a somewhat empathetic statement about Richardson, but also totally sidestepped the issue by referring to her "mental health issues". The USTAF had a chance to allow her the opportunity to compete in the 4X100 relay as it is scheduled to happen after her suspension would end.
They declined to do that.
Sure, there was a time and a place where "weed" was considered bad. The government and so many others tried to convince the world that it was a "gateway drug" that would lead to bigger and stronger usage of drugs. Which was clearly a "scare" tactic designed for marketing purposes. Something that has happened many, many times in the past.
Most of the major US sports have limited to no penalty involved if a random drug test shows marijuana or trace elements of the drug. Part of the reason--the world has changed and the "drug"--or elements of it such as CBD oil are being discovered as a way to help people with various medical issues. Surprise!
For her part, Richardson is not running away from the fact she used the drug. The 21-year old had recently lost her mother and was feeling the stress of the loss. It's not an unusual reaction and certainly not something that would keep her from performing at her best in a couple months in the Olympics.
The reaction to Richardson's suspension as you would suspect has been grossly political. Yes, the rules are in place for a reason, even if the reasons is a faulty one. I get that. And at this point in the game, it's too late to change them to allow her compete.
But the rules do need to change. And change soon.
We can argue all day about what is right and what is wrong about the Track and Field drug testing rules, but at the end of the day, they reflect a time and place we no longer live in.
Like so many other aspects of our current society, there will always be a percentage of people who will argue things like using marijuana should never be allowed and people should go to jail for usage. Which is also why we have jails full of people arrested for having less than an ounce of the drug. Come-on now....
It's roughly the equivalent of a traffic stop for having something hanging from your rear-view mirror in a car. Or being put in jail for stepping off the curb somewhere other than a designated intetersection. And before you say I'm being ridiculous, go look up how many times someone ends up arrested and put in jail for such things.
The good thing for Ms. Richardson is that she's young. She will get opportunities to live her dream again. If she's this good now, she's likely only going to get better. I for one, look forward to seeing her compete and succeed.
But please "Track and Field" community, change your rules. Update them to bring your sport into the 2020's. Track and field is already a dying sport that outside of the Olympics barely is noticed. Having rules that eliminate some of your best competitors who live their lives the way their peers do is a great way to help push your sport further into irrelevance.
It's time to grow up.