Oh, here we go again. Marijuana as a performance-enhancing substance.

In case you haven’t heard of this one, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) on July 2 after testing positive for a banned substance following her run in the U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field late last month.

The banned substance? Marijuana. Yes, marijuana. Why is marijuana on the list of banned substances? According to the USADA, it violates two of the three criteria for inclusion on the banned list. The three criteria include the following: a substance poses a health risk to athletes, it has the potential to enhance performance and it violates the spirit of sport.

Guess which one doesn’t belong on that list when it comes to marijuana? Exactly. According to the updated World Anti-Doping Code released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) earlier this year, THC is considered a “substance of abuse” because it’s frequently used in society outside the context of sport.

I’ll talk more about that pile of crap in a bit but Richardson has handled this with more class than you or I would have. She said she used weed to help calm her nerves following the death of her biological mother earlier this year and knew the risks involved with doing so. Now, we all deal with personal tragedy in our own way and if Richardson felt the need to spark up a fat one to make life a bit better, who are we to judge? Unfortunately, it cost her a trip to the Summer Olympics after the U.S. team left her off the final roster going to Tokyo.

What a sad and pathetic way to miss out. A substance used by millions of people around the world and one which has been legalized in many countries but USADA decided to wag its finger and be the moral betters.

As soon as I heard about this, the first thing which popped into my head was the saga involving Canada’s Ross Rebagliati. If you aren’t familiar with his story, he won gold in men’s snowboard slalom at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. We all cheered when he won … only to have those cheers turn into a myriad of words which rhyme with puck, hit and bun of a hitch when it came back that Rebagliati had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Memories of Ben Johnson and the 1988 Summer Olympics once again came back into the public eye. Another Canadian drug cheat. Just what we needed.

We then all had a right good snort when it came back that Rebagliati’s “performance-enhancing substance” was marijuana and not only that, it was such a trace amount that the only thing it would have enhanced would have been his ability to eat more pizza. Even the International Olympic Committee agreed – after being laughed at by the entire planet – and re-instated Rebagliati’s gold medal.

Richardson’s suspension isn’t only ridiculous but silly. If WADA and USADA consider THC an issue, why aren’t alcohol and/or tobacco on that list? Both are frequently used outside the context of sport and, if we really want to get technical and play by the rules, it meets two of those criteria USADA rolled out: both pose a health risk and both violate the spirit of sport. I mean, would you want to see a marathoner vaping while on their way to winning a gold medal? How about a shot putter trying to compete half-corked? Both instances would make for unintentional comedy but everyone would agree that it would also look just plain stupid.

We wouldn’t be talking about this had Richardson been caught hauling on a half-pack of darts or pounding back a 26’er of Jim Beam. She has accepted her suspension and promised to do better but she shouldn’t have had to do any of that. She should be on that plane to Tokyo and running her guts out. But bureaucracy once again has robbed yet another person of a chance at greatness.

Thanks, USADA.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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  1. No kidding!What a bunch of CRAP!A lot more dangerous substances are out there& marijuana is a naturally grown,WEED!Ridiculous how some people think of it.