Several years ago, Canadian Snowboarder Ross Rebagliati nearly lost his Olympic Gold Medal as a result of a positive test for marijuana. Initially, the International Olympic Committee stripped Rebagliati of his medal, stating that marijuana was on the list of prohibited drugs because it was “performance-enhancing.” On appeal, Rebagliati had his medal reinstated, as the Olympics did not have a specific agreement with any of the competitive snowboarding organizations regarding the use of marijuana. The amount of marijuana in Rebagliati’s system was so low it suggested a second-hand exposure rather than a direct use, which was also a factor in the IOC overturning the decision.
At the time I was in high school and knew the effects of smoking marijuana and knew several avid users of the then-illegal drug. It certainly shocked me that the IOC would call marijuana “performance-enhancing,” considering every pot-head I knew was about the least “enhanced” person I knew. While the debate on the legality of marijuana raged, I often defended its use as recreational, suggesting that the use of marijuana was often a victimless crime.
Which is exactly what it is: A victimless crime. I know all the tired arguments about the use of marijuana, as I grew up in the “Just Say No” days of D.A.R.E. and other drug prevention programs. “It’s a gateway drug,” or “it makes you lazy,” but never was it characterized as “performance-enhancing.” If anything, it was always characterized as a performance inhibitor. Though at the time the negative information poisoned my thoughts about those who were avid users, my position has greatly evolved from both my interaction with adult users as well as my own medicinal use of the drug.
When sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson recently lost her spot in the 100-meter dash at the Tokyo Olympics due to failing a drug test, I expected to hear about the use of illegal substances or performance-enhancing drugs, not the smoking of a little weed in the wake of her mother’s death. This revelation has led to many questioning whether or not marijuana should be on the list of banned substances when tobacco and alcohol are not. Had Richardson chosen to smoke a pack of cigarettes or drown her sorrows in alcohol, no one would have been the wiser. Yet because she smoked some pot in a state where doing so is legal and subsequently tested positive for that drug, she is now suspended and prevented from participating in the Olympics in an event where she is among the dominant competitors.
The use of marijuana is not even banned across all Olympic sports as each sport has its own agreement with the IOC. Had Richardson been competing in another sport, she likely would have still been allowed to participate. Despite this unfair and ridiculous mandate, Richardson has been the consummate professional, accepting full responsibility for her decisions and humanity.
And now we again hear the same tired arguments about marijuana. “The rules are the rules,” said President Biden. Really? We have changed unfair and ridiculous rules previously in this country. It used to be illegal to enter into an interracial marriage, for Blacks to sit on the front of the bus, for gays to marry, and for women to vote, yet, we’ve evolved to the point of accepting that those “crimes” do not create a victim. The argument that marijuana is a “gateway drug” is just a lazy defense of a law that puts millions into jail for a drug no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. In fact, the ONLY reason why we know of Richardson’s use of marijuana is because of a drug test; no victim was created as a result of her marijuana use.
Our party of “law and order” doesn’t account for the dumb laws, the enforcement of which should be immediately abandoned. The idea of “rules being rules” is a lazy way of kicking the can down the road to another person who has their life ruined for engaging in “illegal” behavior which, again, creates no victim. Instead of Conservatives suggesting that Richardson pay the price for her “transgression” we should instead be demanding her immediate reinstatement because of the enforcement of a dumb and antiquated rule.
While it has yet to become an issue of race, one can also not ignore that Richardson would likely have not faced the same result had she been a white woman. In fact, I would even suggest that Richardson would have been defended by Conservatives if she were. Certainly, I will be catching a lot of heat in the comments for saying so, but no one will convince me otherwise. At the same time Conservatives lined up to slam Gwen Berry for her national anthem protests, they should have been defending Richardson, who has not staged any protests. While they lament Laurel Hubbard’s competing in women’s lifting they celebrate the temporary suspension of Richardson, for reasons unknown to me. We should be racing to her side, demanding change.
Sha’Carri Richardson did nothing wrong and is paying the price for an outdated, idiotic rule. Instead of saying “rules are rules” we should be standing up and saying now is the time we need to change the rule. In the race to defend her, Conservatives should be taking Gold.