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Ross Rebagliati joins chorus of support for Sha’Carri Richardson after suspension

There was a massive outpour of support over the weekend for Olympic hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson who was suspended from Team USA for a month after testing positive for THC in Oregon, a legal state. On Friday, 21-year-old Richardson apologized, explaining in an interview that she consumed cannabis after learning her biological mother had died.

“I want to take responsibility for my actions,” Richard told Today. “I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do … and I still made that decision.”

Rebagliati weighs in

Richardson was disqualified from Tokyo’s 100-metre race for having THC in her system. Many on social media questioned the decision, pointing out that Canadian former Olympic snowboarder and cannabis entrepreneur Ross Rebagliati famously lost — and then re-won — his gold medal at Nagano in 1998 after testing positive for THC. We reached him on the phone in Naramata, B.C., where he expressed sympathy and support for Richardson and her team.

“It’s really disheartening,” he said. “I know how I felt when I went through what I went through in Nagano … It’s just too bad.”

Is cannabis performance-enhancing?

While many tweeted that THC, which is banned by the Anti-Doping Association, is far from a performance-enhancer, Rebagliati disagreed — but he also said it’s irrelevant.

“Water is performance-enhancing,” he said. “If you have an athlete who’s running an Iron Man, they will grab a banana for the potassium and the natural sugars to keep them moving. And so the fact that it’s performance-enhancing has nothing to do with its safety. It’s the effect that it gives to athletes — it does not impair them. It helps them sleep, it helps them eat properly, helps them with jetlag … This is discrimination at this point.”

Sponsors stick with Richardson; Biden does not

In a decision that reflects the changing tides, Nike said they will stand by their sponsored athlete. But President Joe Biden’s administration stayed on-brand, too. When asked for comment, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki didn’t condemn the decision.

“This was an independent decision made by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and not a decision that would be made by the U.S. government,” she said.

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