A letter from two members of Congress asked the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to change its rules for athletes using marijuana in the wake of Olympic hopeful Sha'Carri Richardson's one-month suspension. The agency responded that it could not change the internationally agreed-upon rules, but simply enforces them.
Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., penned a July 2 letter to the USADA expressing their ''dismay'' with Richardson's suspension and disqualification from the U.S. Olympic team, ending her chance to compete in the Tokyo games this summer.
''This punishment, which is not supported by any scientific evidence, may prevent Ms. Richardson from competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics just after she inspired the country with her performance in the Olympic Trials last month,'' the letter said.
''We urge you to reconsider the policies that led to this and other suspensions for recreational marijuana use, and to reconsider Ms. Richardson's suspension. Please strike a blow for civil liberties and civil rights by reversing this course you are on.''
Richardson tested positive for marijuana that she said she used to deal with the recent death of her mother, according to Axios.
"I know what I did, I know what I'm supposed to do, what I'm allowed not to do, and I still made that decision," Richardson said.
In response, the agency told the lawmakers that they were not able to either change the rules or reduce Richardson's punishment.
''The anti-doping rules are legislated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) based on the consensus of stakeholders worldwide. USADA does not make, or have a direct vote, on the anti-doping rules but, as a WADA Code signatory, we are required to enforce them,'' the agency responded.
The WADA Code, which was revised in 2019 and went into effect Jan. 1 and is in force with 700 sports organizations around the world, treats the THC in marijuana as a prohibited substance.
''All natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited including any preparation from cannabis or any synthetic cannabinoid. Natural ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and synthetic THC (e.g., dronabinol) are prohibited. All synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC are prohibited,'' the code states.
''Cannabidiol (CBD) is not prohibited. However, athletes should be aware that some CBD products extracted from cannabis plants may also contain THC that could result in a positive test for a prohibited cannabinoid,'' according to the code.
All the organizations that signed on to the WADA Code agree to enforce its sanctions on athletes found to have violated the policy.
The USADA concluded its letter by saying the suspension was the smallest sanction it was allowed to impose.
''Richardson's one-month suspension was the absolute minimum sanction that USADA was permitted to impose under the CODE,'' the letter said. ''Anything less would have resulted in USADA being non-compliant with the WADA Code. Continued non-compliance could result in serious consequences to U.S. athletes (including not being able to participate in the Olympic games).''
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