Several years ago, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati came close to losing his Olympic gold medal as a result of a positive test for marijuana. Initially, the International Olympic Committee stripped Rebagliati of his medal, stating that marijuana was on the banned drug list because it “enhanced performance.” On appeal, Rebagliati regained his medal, as the Olympics did not have a specific agreement with any of the competitive snowboarding organizations regarding the use of marijuana. The amount of marijuana in Rebagliati’s system was so low that it suggested second-hand exposure rather than direct use, which was also a factor in the IOC overturning the decision.
At the time I was in high school and knew the effects of smoking marijuana and knew several avid users of the then illegal drug. It certainly surprised me that the IOC called marijuana “performance enhancement,” considering that every marijuana fanatic I knew was the least “enhanced” person I knew. While the debate over the legality of marijuana raged, I often defended its use as recreational, suggesting that marijuana use was often a victimless crime.
Which is exactly what it is: a victimless crime. I know all the tired arguments about marijuana use as I grew up in the “Just Say No” days of DARE and other drug prevention programs. “It’s a gateway drug” or “makes you lazy” but was never characterized as a “performance enhancer”. In any case, it was always characterized as a performance inhibitor. Although negative information at the time poisoned my thoughts about those who were avid users, my position has evolved enormously from both my interaction with adult users and my own medicinal use of the drug.
When sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson recently lost his place in the 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics due to failing a drug testHe expected to hear about the use of illegal substances or performance-enhancing drugs, not about smoking a little marijuana in the wake of his mother’s death. This revelation has led many to question whether or not marijuana should be on the banned substances list when tobacco and alcohol are not. If Richardson had chosen to smoke a pack of cigarettes or drown his sorrows in alcohol, no one would have been the wiser. However, because she smoked some marijuana in a state where doing so is legal and subsequently tested positive for that drug, she is now suspended and barred from participating in the Olympics in an event where she is among the dominant competitors. .
The use of marijuana is not even prohibited in all Olympic sports, as each sport has its own agreement with the IOC. If Richardson had been competing in another sport, he probably would still have been allowed to participate. Despite this unfair and ridiculous mandate, Richardson has been a consummate professional and has accepted full responsibility for her decisions and her humanity.
And now we hear the same tired arguments about marijuana again. “The rules are the rules,” President Biden said. Really? We have changed unfair and ridiculous rules before in this country. It used to be illegal to marry interracially, for blacks to sit in the front of the bus, for homosexuals to marry, and for women to vote; however, we have evolved to the point of accepting that these “crimes” do not create a victim. The argument that marijuana is a “gateway drug” is just a lazy defense of a law that puts millions of people in jail for a drug that is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. In fact, the ONLY reason we know of Richardson’s marijuana use is from a drug test; no victim was created as a result of his marijuana use.
Our “law and order” party ignores silly laws, the application of which should be dropped immediately. The idea that “rules are rules” is a lazy way of kicking the can down the road to someone else having their life ruined for engaging in “illegal” behavior that, again, creates no victims. Rather than conservatives suggesting that Richardson pay the price for his “transgression,” we should demand his immediate reinstatement due to the application of a silly and outdated rule.
While it has not yet become a question of race, it also cannot be ignored that Richardson probably would not have faced the same outcome had he been a white woman. In fact, I would even suggest that the Conservatives would have defended Richardson if they did. Certainly, I’ll be getting a lot of heat in the comments for saying so, but no one will convince me otherwise. At the same time that conservatives lined up to criticize Gwen Berry in the national anthem protests, they should have been defending Richardson, who has not made any protests. While lamenting Laurel Hubbard competing in women’s weightlifting, they celebrate Richardson’s temporary suspension, for reasons unknown to me. We should run to his side, demanding a change.
Sha’Carri Richardson did nothing wrong and is paying the price for a stupid and outdated rule. Instead of saying “rules are rules,” we should stand up and say that now is the time to change the rule. In the race to defend it, the Conservatives should take the gold.