Since the news broke of Sha’Carri Richardson’s disqualification from the 100m race in the Olympics, support has poured in from all over. At least two petitions were launched, with more than 200,000 people signing on to a MoveOn petition in a day.
Known for its progressive advocacy and work electing progressive candidates, the MoveOn team jumped into action around Richardson’s case. The petition calls the rule banning marijuana “outdated and arbitrarily enforced.”
It continued to read:
The imposition of a penalty against a world-class Black, queer, woman athlete is powerfully and infuriatingly reminiscent of the way drug laws are regularly applied in the United States. Recreational marijuana use has been de facto legal for upper-middle-class white people for years—something more states are recognizing as they legalize marijuana for all people and consider how to repair the damage done to Black and brown communities by decades of the war on drugs.
Richardson also received an outpouring of support from professional athletes. But one noticeably silent person was Michael Phelps.
Professor Greg Carr tweeted that Phelps’ silence was telling. Phelps was suspended for three months in 2009, after a picture of him hitting a bong surfaced.
Columnist Dan Savage compared Richardson’s case to Ross Rebagaliti, who won the gold in snowboarding in 1998. A Canadian snowboarder, Rebagaliti, was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for marijuana. He was subsequently reinstated as a gold medalist because marijuana was not on the banned substance list.
Rebagliati told The Province the news of Richardson’s suspension made him sad. Marijuana was added to the list of banned substances a year after Rebagliati’s case.
“The scientific evidence is there; that’s what should count,” Rebagliati said in an interview with The Province. “The IOC should be a leader for humanity.”
Organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance also weighed in on Richardson’s suspension.
While the rule for marijuana use by Olympic athletes changed since Phelps and Rebagliati’s cases, there is still little reason why marijuana is listed as a banned substance. But the current rule does distinguish between use during competition and outside of a competition period.
Ordinarily, there is little grace in the world for Black women, and elite athletes are no exception. Hurdler Brianna McNeal lost an appeal of a five-year ban. McNeal shared her story publicly, explaining she had an abortion days before her scheduled testing. She told the New York Times that she didn’t hear an antidoping official knocking at her door.
Compounding the Olympics’ anti-blackness, it was announced this week that the Soul Cap designed for natural hair was denied approval. Soul Cap told the BBC that the cap was denied because it doesn’t conform to the swimmer’s head.
Such a determination ignores the challenges facing Black swimmers. Several Black swimmers told the BBC that the smaller caps are insufficient for keeping their hair dry.
“There’s so many barriers for black swimmers, and [Fina have] kind of put another barrier up – defeating the whole purpose of the work that I’m doing,” said swim coach Tony Cronin.