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Absurd Rule, Absurd "Sport"

Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson has been banned from the Olympic 100 meter race in Tokyo for testing positive for marijuana at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

So Richardson, America’s best hope for a gold medal since Gail Devers won in 1996 and perhaps the most dynamic figure in track and field, won’t get a chance to compete against the best in the world.

Her offense was to smoke some weed after learning of her biological mother’s death from a reporter.

Never mind the fact that the trials and the testing took place in Eugene, Oregon, one of 18 states in the U.S. where pot is legal.

Never mind that worldwide, marijuana is now legal in over 40 countries.

Never mind that marijuana is not a performance enhancing drug.

So why is the World Anti Doping Agency (through its US subsidiary) suspending Richardson?

Because marijuana is on the list of banned substances. Under WADA rules, substances are prohibited if they meet two of three criteria: 1) the drug enhances performance, 2) poses a health risk, and/or 3) violates the spirit of the sport.

There is no evidence that smoking pot enhances performance. Indeed, in one of the great quotes from over the weekend, actor and noted pothead Seth Rogen tweeted, “if smoking weed made you fast, I’d be FloJo.”

As for causing harm, how about alcohol and tobacco?

As for violating the spirit of the sport, how exactly can that be judged? Would one of the competitors left in Richardson’s wake complain that she had smoked pot a few days earlier?

The fact that WADA only suspends an athlete for 30 days for smoking marijuana, when the suspension for performance-enhancing drugs is typically two years, shows that it’s not considered a meaningful offense. (And indeed there is a chance she may be added to the 400-meter relay, which takes place after her 30-day suspension is up).

Perhaps the most impressive thing to come out of this sad story is Richardson’s standup apology and accountability. In an era when most athletes and politicians begin their apologies with “If I offended anyone…” and end by throwing someone else under the bus, Richardson’s statement was most refreshing.

“I just want to take responsibility for my actions,” she said Friday. “I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do. I’m not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case…sitting here, I just say, ‘don’t judge me,’ because I am human. I’m you. I just happen to run a little faster.

“This is just one Games,” the 21-year old continued. “I have plenty of Games left in me to compete in. After my sanction is up I’ll be back and able to compete, and every single time I step on the track I’ll be ready for whatever anti-doping agency to come and get what it is that they need.”

Track and field is a great sport. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much attention these days other than every four years when the Olympics come around. Now this antiquated policy has robbed us of one of the most dazzling and talented athletes in the sport on the biggest stage in the world.

That's a tragedy. But perhaps the saddest thing about this dream-crushing suspension is that we know WADA is going to change the rule...just not in time for Sha’Carri Richardson.

Gluttony: Hot dog eating is not a great sport. In fact, I don’t think it’s a sport at all. Some people, including ESPN, disagree.

So on July 4 the International Hot Dog Eating Contest once again was covered live by the Worldwide Leader. San Jose State graduate Joey Chestnut, who now lives in Indiana, won the men’s competition for the 14th time in 15 years by downing 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

I made the mistake of watching it one year, and I wanted to throw up.

But you have to give the man credit for consistency. Chestnut won with a record 74 dogs in 2019, then increased his record to 75 last year, and upped it by one again this year. He also holds eating records for chicken wings, glazed doughnuts, hard boiled eggs, jalapeno poppers, Philly cheesesteaks, pork ribs, and twinkies.

Competitive gorging, it seems, is alive and well.

But it’s not a sport.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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