Richardson Takes Responsibility. Elites Make Excuses.

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Sha’Carri Richardson

You probably know by now that Sha’Carri Richardson, the sprinter who hoped to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, was disqualified from the 100 meter sprint after testing positive for marijuana. The United States Anti-Doping Agency said that Richardson accepted a one-month suspension from her sport, which means that her qualifying sprint at the U. S. Olympic trials has been forfeited. There was a chance that she might be selected to compete in the 4×100 meter relay, but it has since been announced that she will not. That means that Richardson will not compete in this year’s Summer Olympics at all.

Richardson, though obviously profoundly disappointed, has taken responsibility for her actions. She apologized to those who supported her. “I apologize,” Richardson said on NBC’s Today Show. “As much as I’m disappointed, I know that when I step on the track I represent not only myself, I represent a community that has shown great support, great love. … I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”

Others, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), actor Seth Rogen, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, are not so sublime about Richardson’s being disqualified. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Rogan made the claim that banning marijuana is rooted in racism. Ocasio-Cortez said, “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.” Mahomes tweeted, “This is so trash man … just let her run!”

Neither Ocasio-Cortez or Rogan explained how banning athletes for using marijuana was racist but, let’s be honest, sound argument isn’t something one often gets or expects from politicians and actors. In point of fact, marijuana use among Whites and Blacks is about equal (though Blacks are more often arrested for marijuana use), and White athletes have been punished for using marijuana. I don’t recall anyone shouting “Racism!” when Michael Phelps was suspended by U. S. Swimming when he was caught smoking marijuana. Richardson wasn’t tested for marijuana use because she is Black. She was tested because she’s an athlete, and athletes get tested. She tested positive for a banned substance. Hence, the suspension. Richardson explained that her use of marijuana was part of her coping with the news that her biological mother had passed away. We can all sympathize with that. But, she knew marijuana was banned, she knew she would be tested, and she knew she would be suspended if she tested positive. She’s also an adult, and adults take responsibility for their choices. To her credit, Richardson has done so. It’s all those politicians, actors, and athletes who can’t seem to get their head around that fact that playing by the same rules that everyone else is required to play by is essential to sports. (Of course, the IOC allowing transgender women to compete against biological women with testosterone levels still five or more times higher than the average woman makes mincemeat of that principle, but that’s another story).

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of people finding excuses to allow Richardson to compete, or being mad at the USADA and the IOC, we could all agree to use this story as a lesson to our young folk that breaking the rules is not how elite athletes compete. It matters not if you think the rule is stupid or unnecessary. What matters is that the rule applies to everyone, and anyone who breaks the rule faces the same consequences that anyone else would face had they broken the rule. The point is to face one’s responsibilities maturely, and not to be given a mulligan because of one’s race, sex, or the difficult circumstances one was facing when breaking the rule. This could be an important lesson for young people. Instead, our celebrity elites want to turn it into another reason for people to be angry and divided and to feel oppressed.

Ocasio-Cortez, Rogan and Mahomes ought to be ashamed of themselves. Richardson, for her part, seems to be ashamed of herself and genuinely sorry that she let so many people down. Good. It sounds like she has more than a fighting chance of bouncing back from this set back and attaining the sports glory she hopes to one day earn.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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