Sha’Carri Richardson’s Beats by Dre ad reminds us of her absence from the Olympics

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Although Sha’Carri Richardson was featured in a new Beats by Dre commercial with Kanye West, that doesn’t make her absence from the Tokyo Olympics any less infuriating.

In June, track and field athlete Sha’Carri Richardson took America by storm. Her fierce personality reflected her intensity as a runner and helped her become a household name in the sport. Then, on June 19, she won her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by winning the 100 meters at the Olympic Trials. Because of her blazing speed, many expected her to come out with multiple medals in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, Richardson received a one-month suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after testing positive for marijuana after the Olympics. That suspension disqualified her from the 100 meters in the Games, and her Tokyo dreams were officially dashed when she was not selected for the US women’s relay team.

She has received tremendous support since her positive test from many famous celebrities and athletes. The track star surprised many during the NBA Finals, starring in a new Beats by Dre commercial. While it’s a huge moment for Richardson, it doesn’t make her absence from the Tokyo Olympics any less of an issue.

Sha’Carri Richardson’s Beats commercial reminds us that she deserved to be in the Olympics.

During Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Sha’Carri Richardson starred during a commercial break as one of Beats by Dre’s newest athletes. The commercial was composed and edited by music artist Kanye West, and he used the song “No Child Left Behind” from his upcoming album “DONDA”. The commercial shows Richards on the starting blocks preparing for what appears to be a race.

For Richardson, this is a big moment for her, because getting a Beats endorsement is a big deal, especially since so many high-profile athletes have appeared in their ads, such as LeBron James, Serena Williams, James Harden and more. The exposure will help her brand, especially in an ad featuring Kanye West. Plus, the money and benefits she has (or will get) from it only add to the positives.

However, the commercial only reminds us of how she was robbed of her first chance to compete in the Olympics. It’s understandable if she tested positive for an actual performance-enhancing drug, but Richardson tested positive for THC, a chemical component in marijuana. The conversation about marijuana has changed in recent years as many athletes use it for pain relief, emotional relief and other things.

Richardson said she used marijuana to cope with the death of her birth mother. She learned about the death just weeks before her Olympic Trials. Not to mention she used it in Oregon, a state where it was legal to consume recreationally. Yet she still had her shot at Olympic gold taken from her.

The USADA is getting most of the heat for Richardson’s suspension, but people should direct their anger at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). They implicitly admitted that athletes do not use weed for competitive advantage, yet punish athletes for consuming it.

Just this year, WADA considered drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis to be ‘substances of abuse’, not ‘performance enhancers’. They decided that suspensions for those drugs should not be the same as for performance enhancers. WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald told Cycling Weekly, “It was felt that the use of these drugs often had nothing to do with sports performance,” according to Sports Illustrated.

For one, athletes taking these drugs don’t (and never used them) to cheat, so Fitzgerald puts the obvious. Second, it is absurd that cannabis is still listed in the same group as ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. The last three drugs are significantly more dangerous and have much higher risks. Placing marijuana in a group with those other drugs is careless and lacks due diligence to examine the individual effects of each substance.

The rules are the rules, but that doesn’t make them any less outdated. Richardson’s absence from the Tokyo Olympics due to a positive marijuana test is unfortunate and stupid. She earned her way to the games and persevered through a close death to do so. Is she using marijuana to cope with a family death so criminal she must deprive her of the chance to witness a life-changing event at the Olympics?

For the World Anti-Doping Agency and the US Anti-Doping Agency, yes, it is. But that shows how little the Olympics have taught about marijuana, its positive effects and what their athletes think about it. Instead, it looks like they’re sticking to their age-old rules, and Richardson was the victim of that this summer.

The Beats commercial is great, and she deserved the ad. But she deserved her spot at the Tokyo Olympics even more; it’s that simple.

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