Sha'Carri Richardson won't run 100-meter dash at Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana

Tyler Dragon
USA TODAY

U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has been suspended for one month after testing positive for marijuana, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Friday morning.

The positive test result invalidates Richardson's performance at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, where she won the women's 100-meter dash, and will prevent the 21-year-old from competing in her signature event at the Tokyo Olympics later this month. It is unclear if she will be selected for the women's 4x100 relay team.

Richardson issued an apology on NBC's "Today" show on Friday morning.

"I want to take responsibility for my actions," she said on NBC. "I know what I did. I know what I'm supposed to do. I know what I'm allowed not to do, and I still made that decision."

Richardson said on the show that she ingested marijuana after an interview with a reporter in which the reporter informed her that her biological mother had died. She said it was a heavy emotional burden for her on the eve of her first Olympic trials, where she was considered the heavy favorite, and that it sent her into a state of "emotional panic." 

"It's never been a steroid. It will never be a steroid," Richardson said.

Marijuana is legal in Oregon, where the Olympic trials were held, but it is prohibited in-competition under World Anti-Doping Agency rules. Testing positive for the drug carries a minimum punishment of a one-month suspension.

According to USADA, Richardson's positive test result came from a sample collected at the Olympic trials on June 19, when she ran a 10.86 in the final to qualify for her first Olympic appearance. The Dallas native accepted the terms of her provisional suspension, which began June 28.

"The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. "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."

Sha'Carri Richardson  had been considered a strong contender to win gold in the women's 100 in Tokyo. Her season-best time of 10.72 seconds is the second-fastest time in the world this year.

USA Track & Field called the situation "incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved."

"Athlete health and well-being continue to be one of USATF’s most critical priorities," the organization said, "and we will work with Sha’Carri to ensure she has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future."

Known for her style on the track and fiery personality, Richardson had been considered a strong contender to win gold in the women's 100 in Tokyo. Her season-best time of 10.72 seconds is the second-fastest time in the world this year. 

In the wake of Richardson's positive test, Jenna Prandini, who finished fourth in the 100 at trials, will replace Richardson in the 100 meters in Tokyo. Javianne Oliver and Teahna Daniels, who were second and third respectively, are also on the team. Gabby Thomas is penciled in as the alternate in the event.

A USATF spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for a comment Friday about the possibility that Richardson could still be selected as a member of the women's 4x100 relay team for Tokyo.

While the competitors in individual events are automatically chosen based on their performances at the Olympics trials, USATF has discretion in selecting the members of its relay teams. Competition in the women's 4x100 begins Aug. 5, after the conclusion of Richardson's suspension.

Richardson said on the "Today" show that she would be grateful for an opportunity to compete on the relay team, but she also acknowledged that, at 21, she also plans to have many other Olympic appearances still ahead of her. She'll be back.

"I would just say, don't judge me. Because I am human," Richardson said. "I'm you, I just happen to run a little faster."

Contributing: Tom Schad