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'I Am Human. I’m You': Olympic Hopeful Sha'Carri Richardson Suspended After Testing Positive For THC

Test results from the young Dallas-native, who is officially the fastest woman in America, have thrown both her own and Team USA's gold-medal hopes into question. 

By Kevin Dolak
Shacarri Richardson G

Sha'Carri Richardson, the track and field star whose Tokyo Olympic qualifying 100-meter race win last month effectively made her the fastest woman in America, has been suspended from the Olympic team after testing positive for THC, the chemical in marijuana.

Richardson, 21, failed the doping test last week after the June 19 qualifying race in Eugene, Oregon. The young runner who has dazzled fans and been called "the Flo-Jo of our time," referring to track icon Florence Griffith Joyner, has to forfeit any medals, points, and prizes from that event, according to a statement from the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

“I want to take responsibility for my actions. I'm not looking for an excuse,”  told NBC’s “TODAY” during a Friday appearance. "Don’t judge me because I am human. I’m you. I just happen to run a little faster.

“Right now I’m just putting all of my energy into dealing with what I need to deal with to heal myself. I would like to say to my fans and my family and my sponsorship, to the haters, too, I apologize. As much as I’m disappointed, I know that when I step on that track, I don’t represent myself, I represent a community that has shown me great support, great love."

The Dallas-native told “TODAY” that the positive result came after she was triggered by a reporter informing her that her biological mother died last month while in Eugene; she called that moment “definitely nerve-shocking.”

“It sent me into a state of emotional panic,” she said. “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”

Richardson has not publicly elaborated on the circumstances of her mother's death.

The USADA indicated that per their rules if an athlete who tests positive establishes that their “use of the substance occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, the athlete will receive a three-month sanction.” However, the organization said that Richardson completed a counseling program that has now reduced her ineligibility down to one month.

“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,” USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said.

Cannabinoids are also prohibited in competition under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing and marijuana is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances.

Richardson was the favorite to win the Women’s 100 — which could have been the first U.S. gold medal for the event since 1996.

With her eligibility reduced, Richardson will be back in competition just ahead of the beginning of the Tokyo Games on July 30 — but will not be able to compete in the Women’s 100, whose qualifying has slim wiggle room under the USA Track & Field’s strict procedural rules.  

Richardson may be selected by USATF to compete in the 4x100-meter relay, as the governing body selects two members of the relay pool.

After finishing up at Louisiana State University in 2019, Richardson announced her move to become a professional athlete. She has wowed crowds with the confidence, speed, and ever-changing hair color —  which she told Olympics.com is "based off how I want to feel." A recent moment where she ran into the stands after a win to hug her grandmother gave track and field fans a sense of the importance of family to the young athlete.

"Without them, there would be no me. Without my grandmother, there would be no Sha'Carri Richardson. My family is my everything  — my everything until the day I'm done," Richardson said, NBC reported.

Aside from her contrition while speaking on “TODAY,” Richardson exuded confidence around her future Olympic prospects.  

"This will be the last time the Olympics don’t see Sha’Carri Richardson, and this will be the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with a gold medal in the 100," she said Friday. "This is just one game. I’m 21. I’m very young," she said. "I have plenty of games left in me to compete in, and I have plenty of talent that backs me up."

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