The American Olympic sprinter candidate who tested positive for cannabis was left off the U.S. team for the 4x100-meter relay Tuesday.
"First and foremost, we are incredibly sympathetic toward Sha'Carri Richardson's extenuating circumstances and strongly applaud her accountability – and will offer her our continued support both on and off the track," USA Track & Field (USATF) wrote in a statement.
But the rules were the rules, the statement added, and Richardson, 21, knowingly broke them and accepted a one-month ban that precludes her from competing in the 2020 Olympic Games, which were delayed one year due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
"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 statement continued.
"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."
Leaving Richardson off the official U.S. track and field roster Tuesday was a matter of fairness to all athletes, the statement added.
"So while our heartfelt understanding lies with Sha'Carri, we must also maintain fairness for all of the athletes who attempted to realize their dreams by securing a place on the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team," the statement concluded.
Richardson's absence is a loss for the U.S. team's gold medal hopes after she won the 100-meter sprint at the U.S. Olympic trials in June. The suspension ends July 30, two days before the 100 meters in Tokyo, but her victory was wiped out by the positive cannabis test.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) confirmed the suspension last week, although Richardson said last week that she used cannabis to cope with the death of her mother.
She could have been selected to the relay team despite the suspension, because relay coaches, with input from USATF performance staff, select the relay team, but they still left her out.
Richardson's agent did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
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