Sha’Carri Richardson will not represent the USA Track & Field in the Tokyo Olympic Games this year after the organization on Tuesday announced she would not compete in the 4×100 women’s relay.
In a statement, USATF expressed sympathy for Richardson’s situation — she was suspended from competition for a month after testing positive for marijuana at the U.S. track and field trials in Oregon last month— but said it would not be fair to change the rules after competition had occurred and with only weeks remaining before the start of the Olympics:
“While USATF fully agrees that the merit of the World Anti-Doping Agency rules related to THC should be reevaluated, it would be detrimental to the integrity of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track & Field if USATF amended its policies following competition, only weeks before the Olympic Games,” the organization said.
“All USATF athletes are equally aware of and must adhere to the current anti-doping code, and our credibility as the national governing body would be lost if rules were only enforced under certain circumstances.”
MORE: How Richardson’s Olympic suspension differs from Michael Phelps’ 2009 suspension
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Friday announced Richardson would be suspended 30 days for her positive test, guaranteeing she would not be able to run in her primary event, the 100-meter dash, despite finishing first in qualifying with a time of 10.86 seconds. Based on the duration of her suspension, it was still possible she could have been selected for the 4×100 relay competition, the date of which will occur after the conclusion of her suspension (Aug. 5).
But Richardson was absent from USATF’s final roster, which the organization released on Tuesday. According to World Athletics rules — the international federation that governs track and field — countries can bring a pool of six athletes to the Olympics for relay events. The top four finishers in each individual race at the Olympic trials must be included, by rule.
The last two spots, however, are discretionary. That means the USATF staff elected not to pick Richardson with either of its two picks. USA Today, citing a USATF spokesman, said those two spots went to the next-highest finishers in the 100-meter dash: English Gardner and Aleia Hobbs, respectively. USATF said those spots were chosen before Richardson chose a reduced one-month suspension, which meant putting her on the team would have entailed removing one of them after they had been chosen for those positions.
Richardson on Friday appeared on the “TODAY Show” not only to apologize, but also to explain her marijuana use (which is legal in Oregon, where Olympic qualifying took place): She used marijuana as a coping mechanism after being told by a reporter that her mother — “a complete stranger” — had died.
“We all have our different struggles, we all have our different things we deal with. But to put on a face, and have to go in front of the world, and put on a face and hide my pain,” Richardson said. “Who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with a pain, or dealing with a struggle that you’ve never experienced before?”