On Friday, the White House joined the chorus of individuals and groups questioning the wisdom and fairness of penalizing athletes for legal cannabis use when not competing.
The White House, through the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), is pushing for a meeting with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Kelly Scully, Press Secretary for the ONDCP, told Benzinga in an email that the organization had tweeted that it would "ask WADA to gather additional information on its cannabis policies."
WADA's board is scheduled to meet in November but the ONDCP, which has a seat on the board, told the Financial Times that, “if possible, the US will secure an earlier discussion of [cannabis policy] within WADA,” to ask about policies restricting cannabis use, “including the timeframe for testing, and the basis for the consideration of cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug.”
Earlier Friday, a group of 18 lawmakers led by U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who co-chair the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, signed an open letter in support of Sha’Carri Richardson, stating they “oppose the inclusion of cannabis as a prohibited substance within the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) athlete code.”
Richardson, who had qualified with a record-setting 10.86-second in the 100-meter dash, was disqualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when she tested positive for cannabis.
Opposition and support came from a broad swath of society, including Nike Inc NKE, which announced it would stand behind Richardson and “continue to support her through this time.” The cannabis sector strongly denounced Richardson's suspension in the form of public statements.
Last week, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamie Raskin issued a statement saying that USADA's anti-marijuana policy perpetuates anti-drug policies that affect communities of color at disproportionately higher rates.
USADA Responds- Its Hands Are Tied By WADA Rules
On Friday, the agency stated that it “agrees that Ms. Richardson’s exclusion from the Tokyo Olympic Games is a heartbreaking situation and that the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) rules concerning marijuana must change.”
Claiming an obligation to follow WADA, USADA said its own views are different when it comes to what substances are included on WADA's prohibited list as well as what consequences should result from a positive test. “USADA does not make or have a direct vote on the anti-doping rules but (...) we are required to enforce them.”
The agency said it has advocated within the WADA for more flexible and fair rules to address the use of marijuana by athletes. However, since Richardson voluntarily accepted the outcome, there is no longer any legal process to challenge or reverse it, according to USADA.
A petition by MoveOn.org asking that Richardson be reinstated to the US Olympic team has garnered more than 560,000 signatures as of Friday.
Photo by Chau Cédric on Unsplash
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