President Joe Biden appeared to defend a decision by the US Olympic Team to suspend sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, likely preventing her from competing in the Tokyo Olympic Games, when asked by reporters about the decision.
Speaking with journalists in Michigan on Saturday as he rejoined efforts to drive public support for the infrastructure framework agreed upon by a bipartisan group of senators, Mr Biden explained that Ms Richardson knew about Team USA’s ban on marijuana use before she competed and won the 100-metre sprint at the Olympic trials last month.
Ms Richardson’s suspension drew an outcry from progressive Democrats as well as some Republicans, who called for the 21-year-old to be allowed to compete in Tokyo.
"The rules are the rules and everybody knows of the rules going in," said Mr Biden on Saturday, before appearing to suggest that the standard could be changed in the future.
"Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules,” added the president, who noted that he “was really proud of the way she responded."
Ms Richardson apologized in statements after her suspension to journalists as well as on social media, where she vowed to compete in future races including next year’s world championship.
"I apologize. As much as I’m disappointed, I know that when I step on the track I represent not only myself, I represent a community that has shown great support, great love," Ms Richarson said on NBC’s Today show.
Explaining that she smoked marijuana to cope with the very recent death of her mother, she added: "I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time."
Her explanation for the drug use only sparked further calls for her suspension to be lifted, with many noting that marijuana is prescribed medically for symptoms including anxiety in many US states.
While the plant remains banned at the federal level, more and more states are legalizing the drug for recreational as well as medical use; Virginia, New Mexico, and Connecticut all legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2021, bringing the total to 19 states where it is legal to use for any reason.
Mr Biden’s aides spoke as recently as March in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, though he has stated his opposition to fully legalizing the drug.
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