On Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) blasted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) following the suspension of U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who tested positive for THC — a chemical compound found in marijuana — during a drug test at the recent U.S. Olympic trials.
Ocasio-Cortez called on the IOC to “reconsider its suspension” of Richardson, as well as any other similarly “penalized” athletes, arguing that the criminalization of cannabis is an “instrument” of policies related to racism and colonialism.
“The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use. This ruling along w/ IOC denial of swim caps for natural hair is deeply troubling.”
The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy.
The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use. This ruling along w/ IOC denial of swim caps for natural hair is deeply troubling. https://t.co/Ao1Yu8Ax9G
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 2, 2021
As the New York Post noted, “Following the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) relaxed the threshold for what constitutes a positive marijuana test from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 nanograms per milliliter in an effort to detect use during competition rather than in the days and weeks before.”
“However, marijuana remains on WADA’s list of prohibited substances, with THC — the chemical Richardson tested positive for — classified as a so-called ‘Substance of Abuse’ along with cocaine, ecstasy and heroin due to their use in society outside of a competitive context,” the Post added.
Despite Ocasio-Cortez’s claims, colonialism was actually a driving factor behind the cultivation of cannabis. Indeed, one of the three primary crops George Washington grew at Mount Vernon was hemp. It wasn’t until the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 that cannabis products were required to be accurately labeled, which then opened the door to regulation and criminalization.
While Ocasio-Cortez is somewhat accurate when it comes to racist elements of the history of cannabis criminalization, the argument that the IOC is therefore racist is arguably unfounded, given that it is applied to all athletes, regardless of race.
“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart of Richardson’s suspension.
Indeed, Richardson herself did not make any accusation of racism against the IOC.
“Honestly, I just want to apologize for my actions,” Richardson said. “I know what I did. I know what I’m supposed to do, I’m allowed not to do, and I still made that decision. Not making any excuse, or looking for any empathy in my case.”
“At the Olympic trials, Richardson ran the 100 meters in 10.86 seconds, even though she informed the world after the race that her biological mother had passed away the week before,” The Daily Wire’s Joe Morgan reported. “Richardson admitted to using marijuana in order to cope with the loss.”
“We all have our different struggles, we all have our different things we deal with. But to put on a face, and have to go in front of the world, and put on a face and hide my pain,” she said. “Who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with a pain, or dealing with a struggle that you’ve never experienced before?”