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Track And Field Star Sha'Carri Richardson Won't Compete In The Tokyo Olympics

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The fastest female sprinter in this country won't compete at the Summer Olympics. Yesterday USA Track and Field announced its team roster for the Tokyo Games that start this month, and the list did not include Sha'Carri Richardson. There was hope she might make the team, even though a positive drug test for marijuana disqualified her from her main event, the 100 meters. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: After doing something wrong, in the minds of anti-doping officials, Sha'Carri Richardson seemed to do everything right. She apologized and admitted using marijuana broke the rules, even though she said she used it to cope with the emotional panic brought on by her biological mother's death. She accepted a one-month ban and disqualification from the Olympic 100 meters. She reportedly didn't petition to get onto the Olympic 4x100-meter relay team, which still was a possibility. In the end, USA Track and Field coaches squelched that possibility, a decision based in part on fairness. Our credibility, USA Track and Field said in a statement, would be lost if rules were only enforced under certain circumstances. While our heartfelt understanding lies with Sha'Carri, we must also maintain fairness for all the athletes who tried to make the team.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Good reaction by Sha'Carri Richardson. Also...

GOLDMAN: And so the U.S. will miss a seemingly can't-miss star at the Olympics, a runner who appeared destined for Tokyo success even two years ago, as a college freshman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: (Laughter) Wow. The best time ran in collegiate history for Sha'Carri Richardson.

GOLDMAN: She's only 21, and there should be more great performances. A few days ago, she tweeted she was sorry she couldn't be this year's Olympic champ, but, quote, "I promise I'll be your world champ next year." Her Olympics may be over, but the debate isn't about what many see as an unfair ban. THC, the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana, is not a major performance enhancer in sport. Marijuana has become more normalized as states have legalized its medicinal and recreational use. Sports leagues in this country have either stopped testing for it or relaxed the rules. Even USA Track and Field said in its statement it fully agrees that the merit of the World Anti-Doping Agency rules related to THC should be reevaluated.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SARAH, THE ILLSTRUMENTALIST'S "SIRIUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.

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