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‘People Don’t Understand’: Track Star Sha’Carri Richardson Responds to Failed Drug Test and Olympic Disqualification Reports

Track star Sha’Carri Richardson, who quickly became a fan favorite after winning the women’s 100-meter race last month at the U.S Olympic Track Field Trials, has been suspended from the U.S. Olympic team after testing positive for THC, a chemical found in marijuana, multiple sources reported. 

Speaking on what many have called heartbreaking news, Richardson, 21, took accountability for her actions Friday morning, July 2, 2021, during an appearance on the “TODAY” show. The athlete told Savannah Guthrie, one of the show’s anchors, that the loss of her biological mother one week before her impressive 10.86 second race, where she secured her place in the Tokyo Olympics, played a role in her mistake. 

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the Women’s 100 Meter Semi-finals on day 2 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 19, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

“Not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case, but, just however, being in that position of my life, finding out something like that, something that I would say is probably one of the biggest things that have impacted me … that definitely was a very heavy topic on me,” the athlete explained. “People don’t understand what it’s like to have to … go in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain.” She continued, “Who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with the pain or you’re dealing with a struggle that you haven’t experienced before or that you never thought you never would have to deal with?”

Richardson said she learned about her biological mother’s passing from a reporter, which triggered the use of the banned substance. “I was just thinking it would be a normal interview and then on the interview to hear that information come from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering, it was nerve shocking because it’s like how are you to tell me that? He was just doing his job, but that sent me into an emotional state of mind, into a state of emotional panic.”

According to a statement from the USADA, “Richardson’s competitive results obtained on June 19, 2021, including her Olympic qualifying results at the Team Trials, have been disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points and prizes. Beyond the one-month sanction, athlete eligibility for the Tokyo Games is determined by the USOPC and or USA Track & Field eligibility rules.”

Many have since rallied behind the young athlete, including NBA star Damian Lillard, who wrote “This that bullsh-t” on Twitter following the announcement. 

USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart also released a statement: “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.”

The Associated Press reported that Richardson could have faced a three-month suspension, the usual disciplinary action in a case such as this. However, it was reduced to one month because she “successfully completed a counseling program regarding her use of cannabis.” She still has a chance to compete in the women’s relay race, but that doesn’t appear to be the Dallas native’s current focus. 

“Right now, I’m just putting all of my time and energy into dealing with what I need to do, which is heal myself,” she said. “So, if I’m allowed to receive that blessing, then I’m grateful for it, but if not, right now, I’m going to just focus on myself.”

She ended her interview apologizing to her family, supporters and sponsors. “Don’t judge me because I am human,” she added, similar to a post she wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon. “I’m you. I just happen to run a little faster.” Fourth-place finisher Jenna Prandini is expected to get Richardson’s spot in the 100-meter race later this month.

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