Lawmakers rally to defend runner suspended from Olympics for THC screening
The White House on Friday refused to condemn the US Olympic Commission for suspending a famous sprinter because of a positive marijuana test, adding another level of frustration for advocates who sharply criticized the administration for firing its own employees due to cannabis use. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of members of Congress spoke out against the sanction imposed on theathlete.
Sha'Carri Richardson, known as America's fastest woman, was due to compete in Tokyo Olympics this month before testing positive for THC, in violation of US Anti-Doping Agency policy (USADA). The runner admitted to using cannabis in Oregon, where marijuana is legal for adults, after learning of her birth mother's death during a press interview.
Asked if President Joe Biden supports the month-long suspension or if he would like a turnaround to allow the athlete to participate, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied that " it was an independent decision made by the US Anti-Doping Agency and not a decision that would be made by the US government. "
Ms Psaki added, however, that Ms Richardson "is an inspiring young woman who has been through a lot on a personal level and who is also one of the fastest women in the world."
And this woman will miss a key Olympic event given the month-long suspension; however, the sanction is expected to end when she could potentially compete in another race if she remains with the U.S. team following the cannabis controversy.
“So this is an independent decision of the US Anti-Doping Agency, but I also felt it was important to note who she is and her story. "
But while the press secretary appeared to sympathize with the runner and recognize her talent, she did not directly answer the question of what President Joe Biden's position was and gave a remarkably deferential response that rejected the entire responsibility on the governing body of athletics in the country.
For human rights defenders, the administration's refusal to take a stand in favor of the sprinter is another disappointment and indicates once again that she is unwilling to defend the reform, even in difficult situations. unique circumstances like the Richardson case.
At the same time, choosing not to explicitly criticize the sport-related sanction, the administration was accused this year of firing and otherwise punishing staff members who had been honest about their past consumption. cannabis as part of the background check process.
Ms Psaki then said that no one in the White House had been fired for "marijuana use dating back several years", and that no one had been fired "for occasional or minor use. frequent in the previous 12 months ”. However, she has consistently declined to comment on the extent to which staff members have been suspended or placed in a remote work program because they have been honest about their marijuana history on a federal form that is part of the. background check process.
Activists aren't the only ones condemning Richardson's suspension. Several members of Congress and federal candidates criticized the agency for the move.
Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), for example, wrote a letter to USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency to express their "dismay" at the sanction.
“The ban on marijuana is a significant and unnecessary burden on the civil liberties of athletes,” wrote the two lawmakers, who are respectively the chair and vice-chair of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of representatives room.
“The divergent treatment of recreational alcohol and marijuana use reflects outdated stereotypes about cannabis products and a deep misunderstanding of the relative risks of these two substances,” they added, noting that big sports leagues such as the NFL, MLB, and NBA are taking action to reduce or eliminate cannabis-related penalties for players.
"We are also concerned that the ban on marijuana continues as your societies and organizations allow the recreational use of alcohol or other drugs is a reflection of the anti-drug laws and policies that have historically been targeted black and mestizo communities while broadly tolerating drug use in white communities, ”they said.
A number of other lawmakers have criticized the suspension in the publications on social networks.