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Sha'Carri Richardson tests positive for marijuana, could miss Olympics

A source tells NBC News the track star tested positive for THC, the chemical found in marijuana.
/ Source: TODAY

Sha'Carri Richardson, the U.S. sprinter who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the women’s 100-meter race at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon, last month, has been suspended from the Olympic team due to a failed drug test, according to her lawyer.

A U.S. Olympic source told NBC News that Richardson failed the test after her win and that she tested positive for THC, the chemical found in marijuana. Richardson told TODAY in an exclusive interview that she had ingested marijuana after learning from a reporter that her biological mother had died. She was in Oregon, where marijuana is legal.

"I know what I did, I know what I'm supposed to do ... and I still made that decision," Richardson said. "I'm not making an excuse or looking for empathy in my case. However, being in that position in my life, finding out something like that ... Dealing with the relationship I have with my mother, that definitely was a very heavy topic on me."

Her results from the trials automatically disqualified her after testing positive, prohibiting her from competing in the 100 meters, although there is a slim chance she could compete in a relay event. Richardson said that if she was able to "receive that blessing," she would be grateful for it, but if she is barred from competing she will focus on herself.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency said on Friday morning that Richardson had "accepted a one-month suspension" beginning on June 28, 2021 for "testing positive for a substance of abuse." The USADA statement did not confirm whether or not Richardson can run in the relay.

“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,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart.

USA Track and Field said in a brief statement Friday morning Richardson's "situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved," adding that they would work with her to "ensure (Richardson) has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future." The statement did not confirm whether or not Richardson might still attend the Olympics.

Richardson told TODAY that she will be eager to return to the track.

"This is just one game. I’m 21. I’m very young," Richardson said. "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 steroids. … After my sanction is up I’ll be back and ready to compete.”

Richardson also took a moment to apologize to her fans, family, sponsors, and "the haters too."

"I failed y'all," she said.

Richardson also addressed the situation on Twitter, writing that she was "human.”

"Standing here, I'd just say don't judge me, because I am human," Richardson said on TODAY. "I'm you, I just happen to run a little faster."

Richardson emerged as one of the stars to watch in Tokyo after her performance in the trials, winning the 100 meters in 10.86 seconds.

After the event, the 21-year-old Dallas native melted hearts on social media when she sprinted up the stands at Hayward Field and promptly fell into the arms of her grandmother, Betty Harp, who embraced and kissed her.

During an emotional post-race interview with NBC, Richardson revealed that her biological mother had died just the week before.

"Y'all see me on this track, and y'all see the poker face that I put on but nobody but them and my coach know what I go through on a day-to-day basis," said Richardson, who described her year up until that moment as "crazy."

The young athlete had inspired hopes that the U.S. might win its first gold medal in the women's 100m since 1996. Her confidence and eye-catching style — Vogue magazine dubbed her "the Flo-Jo of our time" — also sparked visions of at least one American athlete strutting her stuff with gutsy panache in Tokyo.