Twenty-four-year-old American Ivory Williams—one of the fastest 100-meter sprinters in the world—will not be allowed to compete on the U.S. Team for this year’s World Indoor Championships.
His offense? He tested positive for marijuana. Now Williams, who just last month ran the fastest 60 meters in the world, will be ineligible to compete for the next three months and will have to complete an anti-doping educational program.
It’s simply maddening to see a 24-year-old world-class athlete get sidelined from his sport just because he used a substance that is safer than alcohol and isn’t exactly what you’d call a performance-enhancing drug. To add insult to injury, his manager felt compelled to issue a token apology, saying Williams exhibited “poor judgment.”
In a related, possibly even more frustrating story, the defending champion in the Iditarod—where dogs do the racing, not humans—might now be disqualified because he uses medical marijuana to treat the effects of throat cancer.
Of course, these are just the most recent examples of athletes being reprimanded and forced to apologize for using marijuana. (How can anyone forget the faux-outrages over Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps and Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum?)
It’s one thing for law enforcement to issue penalties to athletes for breaking the law, but it’s quite another for sporting organizations to take it upon themselves to suspend athletes for doing something that isn’t affecting their performance and is actually safer than many of the substances they could be using legally. The fact that these successful, healthy athletes sometimes use marijuana helps to defy inaccurate lazy stoner stereotypes, but the harsh penalties handed down by sporting officials in response simply furthers the baseless notion that marijuana is a particularly harmful drug that consenting adults should be ashamed of using.