US champion Sha’Carri Richardson banned from Olympic 100m after positive cannabis test

Credit: AP

One of the USA's most exciting young athletes Sha’Carri Richardson has been banned from running the 100 metre race at the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana.

The 21-year-old has gathered a huge social media following in the run up to the games, amassing fans with her strong performances on the track and electric personality.

She ran the 100m at Olympic trials in 10.86 seconds last month, with flowing orange hair and long fingernails, before heading into the stands to hug her grandmother.

Former first last Michelle Obama tweeted her support for the star after her trial: "If you haven’t seen it yet, Sha'Carri's race at the Olympic Trials is something to behold—but her grace and grit in this interview might be even more special.

"We are all so proud of you, Sha’Carri! Can't wait to see what you do in Tokyo!"

In a television interview on Friday, after news of the ban broke, Richardson said: "I was definitely triggered and blinded by emotions, blinded by badness, and hurting, and hiding hurt."

Richardson is reported to have said she used the drug after hearing from a reporter that her biological mother had died - a week before Olympic trials were due to begin.

Hearing such intensely personal news from a "complete stranger was definitely triggering and shocking", the athlete said, adding that it sent her into a "state of emotional panic".

She told NBC: "I know I can’t hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain."

The 21-year-old tested positive at the US Olympic trials in Oregon - a state where cannabis is legal. However, one of the chemicals it contains, THC, is banned in athletics.

Earlier in the day, as rumours swirled about the ban, she tweeted: "I am human."

Richardson's 30-day suspension may not spell the end of her Olympic hopes.

Ending on July 27, the runner could still take part in the women's relays - USA Track and Field (USATF) has not disclosed plans for the event.

The 21-year-old sprinter was expected to face Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Britain's Dina Asher-Smith in one of the most highly anticipated races of the Olympic track meet.

The track star recently lost her mother and said smoking cannabis was a way of coping. Credit: AP

While not weighing in on her prospects for the relays, USATF issued a statement that said her "situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved."

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it was “working with USATF to determine the appropriate next steps".

Richardson said if she’s allowed to run in the relay: "I’m grateful, but if not, I’m just going to focus on myself."

"To put on a face and go out in front of the world and hide my pain, who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with pain and struggles you’ve never had to experience before?" Richardson said.

Why is marijuana banned?

After the London Olympics, international regulators relaxed the threshold for what constitutes a positive marijuana test.

They said the new threshold was an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not used during the days and weeks before competition.

Though there have been wide-ranging debates about whether marijuana should be considered a performance-enhancing drug, the US Anti-Doping Agency says all products are "prohibited in-competition" - except for CBD, a byproduct that is being explored for possible medical benefits.