Sha'Carri Richardson apologized on the Today show Friday morning while opening up about heartache and "pressure" she has recently faced on and off the track

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 02, 2021 10:13 AM
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Sha'Carri Richardson isn't making excuses while speaking out after testing positive for marijuana, putting her Tokyo Games aspirations in question.

An early breakout star of the trials leading up to the Olympics, the 21-year-old sprinter is now suspended from the Olympic team after testing positive for THC, which is the chemical in marijuana. The U.S. Olympic track and field trials were held in Eugene, Oregon, last month, where recreational marijuana is legal, though using the substance is against the sport's policies.

Richardson's ban began on June 28 and will last one month. The Olympic Games kick off in Tokyo on July 23.

On Thursday, Richardson seemingly alluded to her suspension, tweeting, "I am human."

The athlete — who had secured her spot on Team USA after clocking in at 10.86 seconds during the women's 100m race, just 0.37 seconds behind the world record held by the late three-time Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner — spoke out about the news Friday morning on the Today show.

"I know what I did. I know what I'm supposed to do and what I'm allowed not to do, and I still made that decision," she said. "But I'm not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case."

Sha'Carri Richardson
Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Richardson went on to tell host Savannah Guthrie about finding out her biological mother had died shortly before she had to compete, a "very heavy topic" for her.

"People don't understand what it's like to have to — alright, people do. We all have our different struggles. We all have our different things we deal with," said Richardson, adding of her experience, "But to put on a face, to have to go in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain, I don't know ... Who am I to tell you how to cope when you're dealing with pain? Or you're dealing with a struggle that you've never experienced before? Or that you never thought you'd have to deal with?"

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Richardson described the "pressure" of showing up on the track with high expectations. She recalled being in a "state of emotional panic" after learning of her biological mother's death, "blinded by emotions" and "sadness" while still having to compete at an Olympic level.

"I was trying to hide my pain," said Richardson.

The athlete from Dallas, Texas, quickly became a gold medal contender following her performance. Richardson also went viral for embracing her grandmother immediately after winning the women's 100m race and punching her ticket to Tokyo.

"I would like to say to my friends, my family, my sponsorship," she said during the Today appearance, "to the haters too: I apologize. As much as I'm disappointed, I know that when I step on the track I don't represent myself, I represent a community that has shown me great support, great love."

Added Richardson, "I'm human. We're human. ... Don't judge me, because I am human. I'm you, I just happen to run a little faster."

She said she still plans to continue looking ahead in her career. "This is just one Games. I'm 21, I'm very young. Unlike most, I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in, and I have plenty of talent that backs me up, because everything I do comes from me naturally. No steroid, no anything, just this incident was about marijuana. After my sanction is up, I'll be back and able to compete."

"This will never happen again," the runner concluded.

Second behind Richardson in the 100m event at trials was Javianne Oliver with 10.99 seconds and third was Teahna Daniels with 11.03 seconds. Both Oliver and Daniels qualified for Tokyo. Fourth in 100m event was Jenna Prandini who finished with 11.11 seconds. Prandini, who will now replace Richardson, qualified for Tokyo in the 200m after placing second.

In a statement addressing Richardson's suspension, Friday, USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said, "The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her."