THC remains banned in competition by doping rules as laws and attitudes change

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, remains on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances – and will give US women’s 100-meter winner Sha’Carri Richardson a chance at an individual victory winning Olympic gold.

Richardson, 21, has been banned for 30 days after testing positive for THC at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon last month. Her suspension ends on July 27th.

According to the revised Codes and Standards 2021, which were adopted in November 2020 and came into force on January 1, 2021, THC is classified as an abusive substance because it is “frequently abused outside of sport in society”.

Therefore “all natural and synthetic cannabinoids are banned under the World Anti-Doping Code”.

It is no longer treated as a performance-enhancing drug that would be banned year-round, but athletes are not allowed to actively use marijuana before and during competition windows.

Recreational use outside of competition is not prohibited, but any traces left on it may result in a positive test and disqualification of an athlete, which happened to Richardson in the Olympic Trials.

Cocaine, heroin and ecstasy are also listed as substances of abuse on WADA’s prohibited list.

The International Olympic Committee, which oversees and directs the Olympic Games, has adopted the WADA Code and Standards and requires all national Olympic sanctions authorities, including the US Olympic and Paralympic Committees, to do the same in order to compete.

Cannabidiol or CBD oil is not a banned substance, but WADA warns that different CBD products contain different concentrations of THC, so “use of any CBD product is at the athlete’s own risk”.

Richardson, who admitted smoking marijuana to deal with her mother’s death, had the fastest time in qualifying (10.84 seconds) and the semifinals (10.64, wind-assisted) at the US Olympic Trials.

She pulled off the field in the second half of the final and won in 10.86 to form her first Olympic team.

Ashley Landis / AP

Sha’Carri Richardson waves after winning the women’s 100 meter run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Saturday June 19, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon.

In a race in April, Richardson won in 10.72, which is the fastest non-wind time in the world to date in 2021.

It was supposed to challenge Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for the gold medal. Fraser-Pryce was Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012, won bronze in 2016 and is currently the world’s best-placed woman in the 100.

Dropping out of the 200 at the US Olympic Trials to focus on the 100, Richardson could still win a medal if she entered the US 400 meter relay.

Her suspension ends three days before the 2020 Tokyo Games track and field events begin on July 30, but the positive test nullifies her Olympic qualification for the event.

“The rules are clear, but it’s heartbreaking on many levels,” USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement announcing Richardson’s suspension. “Your acceptance of responsibility and your apology will hopefully be an important example for all of us that we can successfully master our regrettable decisions despite the costly consequences for them.”

Richardson tested above the limit of 180 ng / ml THC on June 19, the day of the 100 semifinals and the finals during the Olympic Trials. A positive test for a Prohibited Substance means that your Olympic qualifying result has been disqualified according to a notice from the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was among those who expressed dismay after USADA announced the suspension of Richardson.

USOPC will determine their eligibility to participate in the relay, which could be a long chance given that they are technically no longer on the Olympic team.

Richardson is one of four U.S. athletes sanctioned for testing positive cannabinoid this year and one of 35 sanctioned by the USADA in the past decade.

After accepting her suspension, Richardson tweeted a simple message, “I’m Human,” and appeared on NBC’s “Today” Friday morning for an exclusive interview.

I am human

– Sha’Carri Richardson (@itskerrii) July 1, 2021

“Right now, I’m just putting all of my time and energy into doing what I need to heal myself,” said Richardson.

She said it would be “a blessing” if USOPC allowed her to run on the season in Tokyo.

Richardson apologized to her fans, family, sponsors and “also the haters” while talking to “Today” host Savannah Guthrie about her failed test.

“My apologies if I failed you, and I did,” said Richardson, vowing to return to the Olympics in 2024 and win a gold medal. “… I’m 21. I’m still very young. Unlike most of them, I still have a lot of games to take part in. “

Both politically and within athletics, there has been a movement to move away from punishing individuals and athletes for using marijuana.

Canada, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay have legalized recreational marijuana use along with many US states and communities.

Much of Europe and South America, along with Australia, have legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized its recreational use.

Missouri voters legalized medical marijuana in the state in 2018. Pharmacies opened across the state in October 2020.

The NHL, based in Canada and several US states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational uses, tests players for the drug, but only requires treatment for high-level players. The league does not suspend or penalize players for positive THC tests.

Major League Baseball removed marijuana from its Prohibited Substance List in December 2019, but players can still be disciplined for in-season use if they attend team events while high.

The policy change had a bigger impact on lower tier players who previously faced severe bans while upper tier players were fined.

The NFL relaxed its rules, lifting the suspension as a penalty for smoking weed under the 2020 collective agreement.

The NBA suspended drug testing for marijuana in the 2020-21 season citing the COVID-19 pandemic, but it remains to be seen what moves the league forward.

Major League Soccer continues to test marijuana, as does FIFA, the international football association, although the latter views marijuana use as “not a doping problem, but a social problem”. With the passage of a new CBA in 2020, the league didn’t change its drug testing policy, according to a spokesman for Sporting Kansas City.

The NCAA also tests marijuana, and schools can suspend players for positive THC tests, though even the college sports governing body has eased its stance in recent years.