U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Says They Do Not Have Power Alone to Change Rules

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency leaders said that they alone can't change the "harsh consequences" for marijuana use, like sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson's ban from the Olympics last week, the Associated Press reported. However, they disclosed in a letter to Congressional members that they're advocating to change the repercussions of marijuana use when it's not for performance enhancement.

The letter addressed to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamie Raskin, who sent their own letter criticizing Richardson's ban last week, cited an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rule that doesn't punish athletes for marijuana use when it's for performance enhancement. However, the UFC isn't subject to the international anti-doping code like the USADA and all Olympic organizations.

"Most governments in the world have been very reluctant to take marijuana off the prohibited list for public health reasons," the USADA letter said. "It is worth noting that when marijuana was included in the first prohibited list in 2004, one of the strongest advocates for inclusion of marijuana on the prohibited list was the U.S. government."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Sha'Carri Richardson
The USADA said in a letter to Congress that they alone can't change the "harsh consequences" of marijuana use, like Sha'Carri Richardson's suspension. In this June 19, 2021, photo, Richardson celebrates after winning the first heat of the semis finals in women's 100-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Ashley Landis/AP Photo

The letter said that because Richardson voluntarily accepted her 30-day sanction, any attempt to reverse it, as Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin suggested should happen, "would have been quickly appealed" by the IOC or World Anti-Doping Agency and might have resulted in an even longer suspension.

In last Friday's letter to USADA CEO Travis Tygart and WADA president Witold Banka, Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin wrote, "the ban on marijuana is a significant and unnecessary burden on athletes' civil liberties." They said the rule was even more antiquated because of more permissive attitudes about the drug, which "is currently legal in 19 states" and "legal in some form in at least 35 countries around the world."

But USADA countered back that "most governments in the world have been very reluctant to take marijuana off the prohibited list for public health reasons."

Marijuana Ban
The USADA said that they're advocating for removing marijuana from the banned substances list when it's not used for performance enhancement. Sha'Carri Richardson reacts after competing in the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials on June 19, 2021. Patrick Smith/Getty Images