The World Anti-Doping Agency fired back at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for denouncing the Olympic doping suspension of US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson as “racist” — with the agency noting that the US has long supported the ban on weed.
America has been “one of the most vocal and strong advocates for including cannabinoids on the prohibited list,” WADA said in a letter Saturday to Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamie Raskin.
WADA President Witold Banka also wrote that the US Anti-Doping Agency — not the worldwide agency — made the call on Richardson’s suspension.
“While we sympathize with the circumstances of this case and applaud Ms. Richardson’s accountability for accepting that the rules are in place for athletes worldwide, WADA simply plays a coordinating role in the development and publication of the prohibited list,” Banka wrote.
“As you correctly note in your letter, the testing of Ms. Richardson and her resulting suspension were administered and adjudicated by the USADA,” Banka said. “WADA is not a party to that particular matter and therefore simply is not in a position to vacate the results of Ms. Richardon’s test in Oregon …”
Banka also noted that the decision on the prohibited list “are not reached in a vacuum,” and include plenty of input from the US.
“An important fact for the US Congress to know about this process is that there are more representatives from the United States advising WADA on these scientific issues than from any other nation in the world,” he wrote.
Last month, Ocasio-Cortez called the International Olympic Committee’s anti-doping policy, administered and overseen by WADA, “an instrument of racist and colonial policy.”
“The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wrote.
She and Raskin (D-Md.) earlier this month penned a joint letter urging the USADA and WADA to reconsider banning Richardson, 21, who tested positive for TCH, a chemical found in weed, after her win at the 100-meter dash at the Oregon Olympic trials.
“We are also concerned that the continued prohibition of marijuana while your organizations allow recreational use of alcohol and other drugs reflects anti-drug laws and policies that have historically targeted Black and Brown communities while largely condoning drug use in white communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “Anti-marijuana laws have a particularly ugly history of systemic racism.”
Richardson admitted that she smoked marijuana to cope with the recent death of her mother. Her suspension prevents her from competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
Banka said the ban on cannabis and recreational drugs like cocaine and heroin has been in place since before WADA was formed in 2004.
He said the policy has long been supported by countries throughout the globe, including the US, a stance reinforced at a September meeting of the group’s board.
“The meeting minutes and written submissions received from the US over nearly two decades, in particular from USADA, have consistently advocated for cannabinoids to be included in the prohibited list,” he wrote.
Banka added that, while the US currently does not have a representative on the WADA executive committee, “it has represented its 42-nation region more than any other nation in WADA’s history.”