The 21-year-old former Louisiana State University star handsomely won the women’s 100-meter race at last month’s U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, outpacing her competitors with a time of 10.86 seconds. Afterward, Richardson reportedly failed a drug test by testing positive for THC, the chemical found in marijuana.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Friday, Richardson owned up to what she had done. Addressing her “fans, family, sponsorships and the haters, too,” she apologized, said she was disappointed and understands that she represents a community. Richardson also spoke of the need to “control her raw emotions.”
Wearing a long-sleeved black shirt with a Nike swoosh on the front, the platinum-haired sprinter reminded fans, “I’m human. We’re human. I want to be as transparent as possible with you guys,” vowing there will never be a steroid attached to her and specifying the charge was marijuana.
Previously, Richardson reportedly said she used marijuana in Oregon, a state where the substance is legal, following the death of her mother before the Olympic Trials.
”I’m not encouraging anyone to do it. I’m not saying don’t do it or anything like that. But if you choose to do things in your personal time or things like that, you just should know [what] the consequences are. Or just find different ways to just cope or do what it is that will make you feel better,” she said. “Just don’t judge me because I am human…I just happen to run a little faster.
“I want to take responsibility for my actions. I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do…and I still made that decision.”
Richardson was handed a one-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Noting that she is very young, Richardson said on-air that unlike most, she has plenty of Games left in her to compete in and “every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever Anti-Doping Agency to come and get whatever it is they need. This will never happen again.”
With her blazing speed and indisputable on-track style, Richardson was an early favorite — and any marketer’s dream — heading into the Summer Games.
Nike issued the following statement Friday, “We appreciate Sha’Carri’s honesty and accountability and will continue to support her through this time.”
The global sporting juggernaut has stood by a few other leading athletes when they have faced scrutiny by the public, law enforcement or governing bodies. Nike supported elite cyclist Lance Armstrong for years before parting ways in 2012, after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report chronicling his years of doping. The athletic company has also continued to work with Tiger Woods, despite a DUI in 2017 and other public incidents.
Asked by the “Today” commentator about the chance of competing in a relay at the Tokyo Games, Richardson she was focused on what she needs to do to heal herself. “If I’m allowed to receive that blessing, then I’ll move forward. But if not, right now I’ll just focus on myself.”
Describing Richardson’s suspension as “incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved” in a public statement, USA Track & Field officials said, “Athlete health and well-being continue to be one of USATF’s most critical priorities and we will work with Sha’Carri to ensure that she has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future.”