US president Joe Biden weighed in on the suspension of sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson over marijuana use, saying Saturday “the rules are the rules”.
The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) confirmed Richardson’s suspension on Friday after the sprinter known for brightly-colored hair and record-breaking speed tested positive for cannabis during her 100 meter US trials in June.
The women’s 100m event at the Tokyo Olympics starts on 30 July, two days after Richardson’s ban ends, but the adverse finding means her Olympic qualifying results at the trials, which offer automatic places to the first three qualified athletes in each event, are annulled.
“The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in,” Biden said. “Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules.”
Richardson’s suspension provoked bipartisan critiques in Washington. Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on Usada to “strike a blow for civil liberties” by overturning the suspension.
“Let her compete, I’m pretty damn sure weed has never made anyone faster,” Donald Trump Jr, the former Republican president’s son, said on Twitter.
Cannabis is on the list of substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). Usada said it reduced the typical three-month ban to one month because Richardson used cannabis outside of competition and she had successfully completed a counseling program.
In an interview with NBC on Friday, Richardson said that she had taken marijuana after learning of the death of her biological mother before racing at the trials. “I want to take responsibility for my actions, I know what I did and what I’m not supposed to do,” she added.
She also insisted she had never taken more serious performance-enhancing drugs, adding: “Everything I do comes naturally. There will never be a steroid attached to the name Sha’Carri Richardson. It was marijuana. Don’t judge me because I am human.”
When asked about the prospect of potentially competing in the 4x100m relay, Richardson said: “I’m just putting all my time and energy into taking care of myself. If I’m allowed to compete I am grateful but I’m going to focus on myself. To my fans, family and haters, I apologise. I know I represent a community that shows great love and I failed you.”
Biden said Saturday he was “really proud of the way she responded”.