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U.S. Sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson Is Suspended After A Positive Marijuana Test

Sha'Carri Richardson runs and celebrates in the Women's 100 meter semifinal last month at 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Sha'Carri Richardson runs and celebrates in the Women's 100 meter semifinal last month at 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

U.S. track and field star Sha'Carri Richardson will be suspended for one month after testing positive for THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana.

The result means she cannot compete in the 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics. She was seen as the best U.S. contender for a gold medal in the event.

"Don't judge me, because I am human," Richardson said in an interview Friday with NBC's Today show. "I'm you. I just happen to run a little faster."

The 21-year-old accepted the monthlong period of ineligibility for the failed drug test, beginning on June 28, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

"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," the agency's CEO, Travis T. Tygart, said in a statement.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it reduced Richardson's suspension to one month, the minimum allowed by the rules, because her marijuana use was unrelated to her athletic performance and occurred outside of competition and also because she successfully completed a related counseling program.

Richardson said she used marijuana after learning that her biological mother had died just a week before the Olympic trials.

It was difficult "to have to go in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain," she told Today. "Who am I to tell you how to cope?"

Richardson used the drug in Oregon, NBC Sports reported, where it is legal for recreational use.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency considers THC — which is in cannabis, marijuana and hashish — a "substance of abuse" and prohibits it in competition.

Richardson cannot run the 100-meter race at the Olympics, because the positive test disqualified her result clocked at team trials. USA Track & Field has not clarified whether she might still be allowed to run the 4x100 meter relay, which is scheduled after her suspension ends.

In April, she became the sixth-fastest woman to run the 100-meter dash, recording a time of 10.72 seconds at a competition in Miramar, Fla.

In a statement, USA Track and Field said Richardson's suspension was "incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved" and added that it would ensure she had "ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future."

The national governing body did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment on her potential eligibility for the relay.

The news reminded some people of the three-month suspension given to swimmer Michael Phelps in 2009 after he was photographed smoking marijuana from a bong. Phelps had competed in the Olympics the previous year, and he never tested positive for marijuana, according to Snopes.com.

NPR's Merrit Kennedy contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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