Sha’Carri Richardson, who made headlines recently for thanking her girlfriend after qualifying for the Olympics, will now miss at least part of the games due to a positive marijuana test.
Richardson qualified for the American track and field team after placing first in the 100-meter race at the trials in Oregon in June, but the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Friday that she had tested positive for marijuana use and that she had accepted a one-month suspension, expiring July 28, The New York Times and other media outlets are reporting.
The test automatically invalidated her first-place finish and made her ineligible to compete in the 100-meter at the Tokyo Olympics, even though the event won’t be held until two days after her suspension ends. USA Track and Field could choose her to participate in the 4x100-meter relay, but officials haven’t commented on whether this will happen.
Richardson, appearing on NBC’s Today show Friday morning, said she used marijuana, which is legal in Oregon but in violation of Olympics rules during competition, after learning of her biological mother’s death. The athlete, who was raised by her grandmother, said she heard about her mother’s death from a reporter while she was in Oregon for the trials.
“It sent me into a state of emotional panic. … I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time,” she said.
She apologized to her fans and sponsors. “I greatly apologize if I let you guys down, and I did,” she said on the program.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee released this statement: “While we are heartbroken, the USOPC is steadfast in its commitment to clean competition and it supports the anti-doping code. … A positive test for any banned substance comes with consequences and we are working with the USATF to determine the appropriate next steps. We are dedicated to providing Sha’Carri the support services she needs during this difficult time.”
Under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s rules, to which the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the U.S. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency subscribe, “marijuana is a prohibited substance because it can enhance performance, it poses a health risk to athletes and its use violates the spirit of the sport,” the Times reports.
Richardson is known for sporting bright hair colors when she competes, and after qualifying for the Olympic team, she publicly thanked her girlfriend, who had chosen her color at the time, a fiery orange. “She said it just spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant,” Richardson told USA Today. “That’s who I am. She just wanted me to be able to make a statement — let’s continue to show the world I’m a force to be reckoned with.”