WASHINGTON — Sha'Carri Richardson -- the American sprinter who was suspended from last year's summer Olympics after testing positive for marijuana -- took to Twitter after arbitrators cleared Kamila Valieva to continue competing in the Beijing Olympics despite failing a doping test.
"The only difference I see is I'm a Black young lady," the Texas-born athlete wrote on Twitter Monday after the decision concerning Valieva's participation was announced.
Richardson's positive test nullified her win at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, and the guaranteed spot that went with it in Tokyo in the 100. While her 30-day suspension ended before the start of the relay competitions in Tokyo, USA Track and Field decided not to offer her a spot.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Valieva to skate less than 12 hours after a hastily arranged hearing that lasted into early Monday morning. A panel of judges ruled that the 15-year-old Valieva, the favorite for the women’s individual gold, does not need to be provisionally suspended ahead of a full investigation.
The court gave her a favorable decision in part because she is a minor, known in Olympic jargon as a “protected person," and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete.
The IOC's arbitrators were not the same team as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) who were responsible for Richardson's suspension. However, USADA follows regulations set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and both cannabis and trimetazidine — the drug Valieva tested positive for which is usually used to treat angina attacks but is also known to improve endurance in athletes -- are both banned by the WADA.
Some Twitter users praised Richardson for voicing her frustration, with many -- including Richardson herself -- noting that THC is not used for its performance-enhancing abilities, a claim verified by multiple studies.
However, other users refuted Richardson's claim that race played a role in the outcomes between the two athletes, with many noting that the arbitrators had considered Valieva's status as a minor.
Still, Richardson's comments have re-sparked a debate about punishing athletes for use of substances like marijuana.
On NBC's "Today," Richardson said she used marijuana upon learning of the death of her biological mother a few days before the US Olympic Team Trials began, bringing Americans nationwide to sympathize with the record-breaking sprinter.
Following public backlash, USADA leaders announced they were working to mitigate "harsh consequences" for THC if athletes could prove they did not use the drug to enhance performances.
Andrew Weil and the Associated Press contributed to this report.