If It Ain’t Crack, Let Her Run Track
For those of you who have not heard, or maybe are still reeling from celebrating America the only way we know how to; smoking fat doobies, eating red white, and blue brownies, and maybe some THC bomb pops, world class American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for THC days after the US Olympic Trials. Richardson proceeded to respond with one of the most relatable and humanistic tweets ever: “I am human.”
It’s Our Fault
We, as a society, for centuries have held athletes to a higher standard than the general public. Is that the right thing to do? After all, these athletes are indeed human. They have personal issues, physical issues, and professional issues amplified even more by the spotlight we cast on them. Yet we penalize them when these humanistic traits come forward, and more so than that, require them to abide by the archaic laws related to cannabis that science does not back, and everyone else does not need to follow. In a world where they are putting themselves through a much higher degree of physical, mental, and emotional tolls, why are we penalizing them for pursuing medication that could help them? This suspension and ban from the Tokyo Olympics is just another example of the deep rooted racist, flawed, and archaic thinking related to cannabis regulation and those who create the rules that surround it.
In no way shape or form are we advocating for testing to go away for athletes. There is a long-standing history of performance enhancing drugs in sports, and the need to make sure everyone is playing on the same field is important for the fairness of the game.
Weed or Pain Pills? Whose Choice Is It Really?
With that being said, if we are prescribing opioids and other pain medication openly and aggressively to professional athletes experiencing physical pain, why is it that a substance known to be less addictive and cause less long-term harm is not allowed for their emotional, mental, or physical pain? There have been steps in major sports leagues domestically to change this dynamic – understanding the root cause of why cannabis is treated as it currently is, as well as the potential study of the BENEFITS, not just the potential harm. The NFL and NBA have already taken action and hopefully others soon will follow; but in Sha’Carri’s case, it is a world issue, not just a domestic issue. As a leader on the world stage, the US has an opportunity to send a strong message on cannabis in sports and show the world that the old way of thinking about this substance is incorrect, flawed, and biased. It should stand up for its athlete and show the world that our people are just that, people. We shouldn’t be penalizing athletes that show THC in their systems and instead, reinforce the positive impacts cannabis can have, educate on the potential negative consequences a person might experience and what to do if that occurs, and help change the way the world views cannabis in sports.
Weed Is Not Performance Enhancing
Cannabis is not a performance enhancing drug in a physical sense. If cannabis made you fast, I’d be Flo-Jo (thanks, Seth Rogen, for that one) winning gold medals left and right. But it doesn’t, we all know this. Instead of becoming The Flash, usually I get locked to the couch, focusing on something intensely for hours and not completely understanding why. Instead of sweating through a headband and running laps, it feels like I’m wearing a headband when I’m really not….for hours. Anyone who has used cannabis knows that it is not a performance enhancing drug, yet those making the rules and laws are typically not those who have used it, or have thought about cannabis with a jaded view from the beginning.
The Cycle Keeps Going
With that, we are left with a world class athlete getting the opportunity she has worked her entire life for taken away because of a much, much larger issue. This is not an example of, “Oh, she shouldn’t have done it.” To the contrary, we should ask why we’re even talking about it. Especially as Cannabis becomes more a part of people’s everyday lives, becomes more mainstream, and becomes more politically correct/tolerated we will be faced with more of these deep-rooted historical stigma-related questions. Should we treat people differently depending on what they do for a living or what they represent? Or should they be treated as regular humans just like the rest of us? In the end, if it ain’t crack, let her run track.