Saturday Sports: Sha'Carri Richardson Suspended For Positive Marijuana Test
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
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FADEL: A dazzling Olympic track star faces suspension after testing positive for pot. And are there drawbacks to that new NCAA rule that players can now cash in on their names and images?
Joining me now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Leila.
FADEL: So, Tom, you and I will both be in Tokyo to cover the Olympics this month, but it sounds like we're not going to get a chance to see gold medal favorite Sha'Carri Richardson compete in her big event, the 100-meter dash. What happened?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, she tested positive for marijuana during the track and field Olympic trials in Oregon last month. That disqualified her from the 100 meters, which she won, meaning she can't run that race in Tokyo, and she accepted a one-month suspension. Now, the back story - during an interview at the trials, a reporter told Richardson that her biological mom had died unexpectedly. And she says she went into a state of emotional panic and sought psychological relief through marijuana.
FADEL: So let's back up for a second - all this for smoking marijuana. I mean, it's fully legal in a bunch of states and pretty normalized in the U.S. Why is this such a big deal?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, because it violates current anti-doping rules. The World Anti-Doping Agency defines marijuana as a substance of abuse. And although it doesn't seem like pot is a performance enhancer, the agency says studies show it does have that potential as far as helping some athletes focus and relax. But a lot of people still aren't buying it. They're saying, come on. It's pot, not steroids. A moveon.org petition, Let Sha'Carri Run, had nearly 210,000 signatures first thing this morning. And she could still run in Tokyo. The USA Track & Field can name her to the team in the 4x100 meter relay, but no word on that yet.
FADEL: OK, we've got to talk about the other big story of the week. Now that the NCAA allows college athletes to cash in on their fame, what are some of the deals that have been inked already?
GOLDMAN: Leila, you can now buy apparel by Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon. He started selling his line of clothes on Thursday. I know you want to get in line for that.
FADEL: First in line.
GOLDMAN: Sisters Haley and Hanna Cavinder, basketball players for Fresno State, they signed deals with Boost Mobile and a nutrition company. And Will Ulmer, a football player for Marshall, can now get paid for playing country music under his own name rather than what he has been calling himself, Lucky Bill.
FADEL: So we spent a lot of time talking about the positives that came from the decision. Are there potential drawbacks?
GOLDMAN: There are. Athletes with visions of huge windfalls of cash need to know, for the most part, that's not going to happen. And earning any money will require some work, like a business plan, a vision for how to build a personal brand. Another issue - it's estimated 10 to 12% of Division I athletes are international, on student visas, and earning name, image and likeness money, especially a lot, could change their visa classification from student to paid worker. That could be a problem.
FADEL: OK, Tom, before I let you go, a couple of quick mentions. We're close to having a repeat champion in the National Hockey League.
GOLDMAN: We are. And after beating Montreal last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning not only have a chance to repeat but become the first team since 1998 to sweep an opponent four games to none in the Stanley Cup finals. And the WNBA, once again leading the way off the court, this week announced 99% of its players are fully vaccinated against COVID - by far the highest rate among U.S. major pro sports leagues.
FADEL: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thank you, and see you in Tokyo.
GOLDMAN: Cannot wait.
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