Evanson column: Sorry Sha' Carri Richardson, rules are rules, like it or not
Sha'Carri Richardson isn't going to the Olympics, and she has no one to blame but herself.
Rough? Maybe — but having earned her right to be there on the track, she just as equally earned her suspension off it when she knowingly broke a rule that she was fully aware would lead to her removal from the team and end — at least temporarily — her Olympic dream.
Richardson, who qualified for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo in the 100 meters last month, will not be participating in next month's games due to testing positive for marijuana, which is a banned substance by both the U.S. and worldwide doping agencies.
Since her disqualification was made public more than a week ago, people coast-to-coast have been screaming from the rooftops about the absurdity and injustice of the decision, and there's even a petition making the rounds that as of July 8 had more than 500,000 signatures.
"It's ridiculous," Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said.
"It's both heartbreaking and infuriating that this is happening to her," MSNBC opinion columnist Hayes Brown said before later referring to the policy which led to her suspension as racist.
"Rules are not rules," Nick Wright of FS1 said about the decision. "The same people that make the rules can unmake the rules. Let her run."
Great, so everyone else who maybe begrudgingly abstained from smoking pot so as to abide by the rule should look the other way as well?
Sorry, Nick, but rules are, in fact, rules, and they — unlike records — aren't meant to broken.
At some point in time, it became progressively popular — and increasingly OK — to break rules that a sect of the population may feel to be nonsensical, whether it be exceeding the speed limit, cheating on your taxes, gambling illegally, or, one of the most popular — until it was legalized in individual states like Oregon — smoking weed.
But while it may seem absurd to many, the law is the law.
The 20-year-old track star admitted to using marijuana, saying she did so after learning of her biological mother's death and facing pressure to perform at the U.S. Olympic trials. And she owns her suspension — she said so on national television.
"I want to take responsibility for my actions," Richardson said on the "Today" show on July 2. "I know what I did. I know what I'm supposed to do and am allowed not to do, and I still made that decision. I'm not making an excuse. I'm not looking for any empathy in my case."
And she's not alone. Current MMA fighter and former Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison doesn't necessarily agree with the rule, and she's sympathetic to Richardson, but at the same time, she is steadfast about her obligation to abide by it.
"My biggest problem with it is if you know what the rule is and you choose to do it anyway, that's nobody's fault but your own. That's my opinion on it," Harrison said.
She's not wrong. I know it's uncool to side with the "man" in instances like this, and when it comes to marijuana, one thing is for sure: The times, they are a-changin'. After all, 18 states plus Washington, D.C., have legalized the drug for recreational use, and 36 have either legalized it or approved it for medicinal purposes.
So, while marijuana is a banned substance by competition committees worldwide, it seems those days are numbered. But while in many places, it's legal and generally accepted by the masses, it remains a "fireable" offense for athletes — and that matters.
Sha'Carri Richardson is out of the Olympics, and that's sad. She's worked hard with the goal of competing at the sport's highest level and on its biggest stage, and a reckless decision took that away. But that decision was hers, and ultimately, the consequences are now as well.
Is marijuana performance-enhancing, and should it be on the banned substances list? Probably not, on both counts. But it was and is, and regardless of whether it will be in the future, like it or not, that doesn't matter. Rules, however, do, and they also do — or at least should — have consequences.
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