Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has slammed the International Olympics Committee (IOC) claiming that anti-cannabis laws are racist and an "instrument of colonial policy." She has urged the sports body to "reconsider" its anti doping policy and allow Sha'Carri Richardson to be to run in the Olympics 100m race.
Sprinter Richardson was banned for 30 days after failing a marijuana test and will miss out on the 100-meter race at the Tokyo Games that starts this month. AOC also slammed the International Swimming Federation for banning the use of Soul Cap during competitions.
Hitting Out at the IOC
AOC hit out at Olympic organizers for their decision on Friday and also slammed the International Swimming Federation for rejecting the use of Soul Cap. Soul Cap is a brand of swimming caps designed for athletes with natural black hair at the Olympics. However, she was more furious at the IOC.
"The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy," she tweeted. "The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use. This ruling along w/ IOC denial of swim caps for natural hair is deeply troubling," the socialist lawmaker further wrote.
Richardson won the 100-meter dash clocking 10.86 seconds at the trials in Eugene, Oregon, on June 19 but was handed a one-month ban after she failed a marijuana test. Her suspension runs through July 27, which means she won't be able to compete in the Olympics scheduled to be held this month in Tokyo.
However, she could still run in the 4X100-meter relay at the event. Not only AOC many others have also stood by the athlete, including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who stopped short of opposing the US Anti-Doping Agency's decision to suspend Richardson.
Psaki, who was herself a champion swimmer, praised Richardson by saying that she is "an inspiring young woman." However, she also said that it was "appropriate" for the US Anti-Doping Agency to make its own independent decisions about anti-doping policies.
The application by the British brand Soul Cap for its products to be recognized by FINA was rejected because the caps, which are meant to cover thick, curly and voluminous hair, do not follow "the natural form of the head, according to the governing body. However, AOC believes that the decision has to do more with racism than the rules of the sport.
AOC's comments on anti-cannabis laws were with a broader purpose. Calling the anti-cannabis laws racist is a reference to how enforcement of such laws often disproportionately targets minority groups.
On the other hand, Richardson has apologized to fans following the 30-day ban. However, she said that she only used marijuana to help cope with the death of her biological mother before the Olympic trials in Oregon. That, however, can't be the reason, according to the IOC.
"I just say don't judge me because I am human," she told NBC's Today on Friday. "I'm you, I just happen to run a little faster." Richardson, reportedly, learnt about her biological mother's death from a reporter's question during an interview days before she won the 100-meter dash at the US Olympic Trials.
That said, Richardson was not using her mother's death to excuse her decision. Marijuana is legal in Oregon, so she didn't break any law, but she did know the potential consequences of using the drug.
But rules have changed a lot over the past decade. Following the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) relaxed the threshold for what constitutes a positive marijuana test from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 nanograms per milliliter in an effort to detect use during competition rather than in the days and weeks before.
However, marijuana remains on WADA's list of prohibited substances, with THC — the chemical Richardson tested positive for — classified as a so-called "Substance of Abuse" along with cocaine, ecstasy and heroin due to their use in society outside of a competitive context.
Richardson is now likely to be replaced by Jenna Prandini at the Tokyo Games. Prandini finished fourth in the 100 meter sprint that Richardson won.