Former LSU All-American sprinter and Olympic gold-medal hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson won’t be able to run in her signature race at this month’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo after accepting a one-month suspension for testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana.
Richardson, 21, had claimed one of three spots on the U.S. team, winning the 100 meters (10.86) at the U.S. Track and Field Trials June 19 in Eugene, Oregon.
She was considered a favorite to win gold in that event, but instead began serving a suspension June 28 that ends July 27. She remains hopeful of being able to represent the United States and run on the 4×100 relay which is scheduled Aug. 5th.
“I greatly apologize if I let you guys down, and I did,” Richardson said of her family, friends and supporters during her appearance on Friday’s ‘The Today Show’ on NBC.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced the positive result and said Richardson had accepted her suspension. The organization said the suspension could have been up to two years, but because Richardson had successfully completed a counseling program, the suspension was reduced to one month which could clear her in time for run on the 4×100 relay if she’s named to the team.
“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA, said Friday.
The U.S. Track and Field Association choses up to six athletes for the country’s relay pool, with three of the four having finished in the top three of the 100 meters along with an alternate. The sport’s governing body names the remaining two members of the relay pool.
Because of a positive result for her use of cannabis, Richardson’s result was erased.
“Right now, I’m just putting all of my time and energy into dealing with what I need to deal with to heal myself,” Richardson said on the Today Show. “So, if I’m allowed to take that place (at the Olympics) I would be grateful for it but if not, right now I’m going to focus on myself.
“This incident was about marijuana, so after my sanction is up,” she added, “I’ll be back and able to compete and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever (the) anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”
According to the USADA, marijuana is on its list of prohibited substances and is banned during in-competition periods such as the U.S. Trials. The agency believes the substance can enhance performance, as well as poses a health risk to athletes and violates the spirit of the sport.
Richardson admitted that while in Oregon for the U.S. Trials, a state where marijuana is legal, she turned to the drug to cope with the unexpected death of her biological mother.
“It sent me into a state of emotional panic,” she said. “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
Richardson, a native of Dallas, captured the 100 and was second in the 200 and 4×100 relay during the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, capping what turned out to be her one and only season at LSU before turning professional.
Prior to that, she successfully debuted on an international stage, winning a gold medal in the 2017 Pan American U20 Championships in both the 100 and 4×100 relay.
“This will be the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with a gold medal in the 100,” Richardson said.
LSU track and field coach Dennis Shaver released a statement supporting Richardson. He said:
“We offer Sha’Carri our support during these difficult times. The most important thing is for us to be here to support her off the track in moments like these. Sports are sports, but life is life. Mental health is something that needs to be prioritized at a higher level, and we fully back Sha’Carri as she copes through this.
“She is one of the brightest and most notable stars in track & field without a doubt. She represents and encourages so many people. The pride, the energy, the pure entertainment – she brings so much attention to our sport that is matched by few. We will miss her representing Team USA and LSU on the Olympic stage this July in the 100 meters, but we know how promising her future is.”