The American sprinter has been in the minds and hearts of the public these past few weeks, as the visibility of a queer, Black woman with tattoos and colored hair has been, to many, a symbol of the kind of inclusive future we can look forward to post-pandemic. But it seems that the world is not quite ready for her alleged cannabis use to be in the mix, and it just might keep her out of the Olympics for good.
Richardson, only 21 years of age, may have failed a drug test this week, as it was first reported by Jamaica Gleaner, who alleged that she tested positive for a prohibited substance. Because of this, her U.S. Olympic Trials performance would no longer be valid, and she will likely miss the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
More information was then confirmed when Tyler Dragon of the Enquirer tweeted that she didn’t use steroids, as some had assumed, but is facing at least a 30-day suspension specifically for the use of cannabis, as she tested positive for marijuana.
However, there is hope on the horizon. While she will more than likely be suspended from the 100-meter event at the Olympics, she could be allowed back in time for the 4x100m relay. Depending on what is decided, she could be banned from one to three months for failing the drug test at the Olympic trials.
This also means that her 100m U.S. Olympic Trials win is now no longer valid. Hanna Prandini will likely replace her if this holds up, even though she came in fourth at the event.
Cryptic Message and Prohibition at the Olympics
Richardson has still not publicly addressed what happened, at least not in the usual sense. She withdrew from Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Stockholm, at which she was going to run the 200 meters. She also tweeted today, saying simply “I am human.” No one is sure if the cryptic message relates to her desire to use cannabis, the fact that to err is human or something else entirely.
The Olympics will begin this year on July 23 and run through August 8. They were originally postponed due to COVID, but now they are back in full swing, and much of the world is waiting excitedly for this tradition to continue at a time when unity and togetherness is much needed.
However, while America and the rest of the world wait patiently for the Olympics, America’s persistence in cannabis prohibition is still setting athletes back. Khamari Montgomery, an American sprinter in and 400m US champion back in 2018, also tested positive for cannabis at the Miramar Invitational on April 10 and was faced with a one-month ban and a treatment program to complete before being able to compete again.
Now, the pattern appears to be repeating with Richardson, who may be disqualified from bringing victory to the US and making a new generation of viewers proud simply due to harmless cannabis use. Despite the fact that many states have legalized and approval continues to grow, President Joe Biden has yet to make serious moves when it comes to making cannabis legal, and the Olympics also have yet to make moves that update their cannabis policy and treat it differently than steroids and hard drugs.
It’s still not clear exactly how this will all play out, and if she ends up being banned, how long it will last. But one thing is clear—modern-day athletes and public figures are calling for the acceptance of cannabis, and it’s time the powers that be listen.
Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.