Sha'Carri Richardson to make track return at Prefontaine Classic against Tokyo Olympic medallists

The U.S. sprinter makes her competitive comeback at the Diamond League meeting in Oregon on Saturday (21 August) following a one-month suspension with race against Tokyo 2020 medallists.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Sha'Carri Richardson will make her return to competitive athletics action on Saturday (21 August) at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon, USA.

The American is back after serving a one-month suspension handed to her when she tested positive for a cannabinoid at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, where she had originally won the women's 100m race.

Her return will pit the world's third-fastest woman this year against the three Olympic medallists from Tokyo – Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson, all from Jamaica.

Sha'Carri Richardson's suspension

On 1 July, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced that Richardson had accepted being suspended for "for an anti-doping rule violation for testing positive for a substance of abuse", having previously received a provisional ban on 28 June.

While competing at the Trials, Richardson provided a sample on 19 June that returned a positive test for a chemical found in marijuana, THC.

THC is a banned substance in-competition, although it is not prohibited out of competition, under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules which classify it as a substance of abuse.

Although Richardson consumed the drug out of competition, she returned an in-competition positive and was therefore sanctioned under USADA's own regulations, which state: "If an athlete tests positive for a substance of abuse during an in-competition test, but the athlete can establish that they used the substance out-of-competition and that their use of the substance was unrelated to sport performance, then the athlete’s period of ineligibility will be reduced to three months with no need to further analyse the degree of fault."

USADA added in handing out a one-month suspension: "Richardson’s period of ineligibility was reduced to one month because her use of cannabis occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, and because she successfully completed a counselling program regarding her use of cannabis."

The sanction meant her qualifying results at the trials were expunged.

Her suspension ended before the start of the athletics program at Tokyo 2020, but as USA Track & Field (USATF) selects its Olympic team based solely on results at Trials, Richardson was not considered for selection in either the 100m or 4x100m relay.

Sha'Carri Richardson vs Tokyo 2020 medallists

In Eugene, which was also the site of the U.S. Trials where Richardson had run 10.86 in the final, she and the three Tokyo 2020 medallists headline a world-class field in the women's 100m.

That start-list includes Tokyo relay silver medallists Teahna Daniels and Javianne Oliver of the USA and two other 100m finalists Switzerland's Mujinga Kambundji (6th) and Marie-Josée Ta Lou (4th) of Côte d'Ivoire. Briana Williams, the fourth member of the Jamaican 4x100m gold-winning relay team, completes the lineup.

Richardson ran a 10.72 at the Miramar Invitational in Florida in April, a time that made the 21-year-old the sixth-fastest woman ever over 100m and, at the time the world leader in 2021.

Since then this year, only two other women have gone faster – Richardson is surpassed by Fraser-Pryce (10.63 in June) and Thompson-Herah's Olympic record 10.61.

The clash between the young American talent and the Olympic medallists is tantalising after they were unable to race each other in Tokyo.

Indeed, the five fastest women this year will all be competing in the race – Jackson and Ta Lou are fourth and fifth respectively.

Richardson's last international 100m race was at a rainy Gateshead Diamond League in England in May, when she finished second in 11.44 seconds into a very strong headwind (-3.1 m/s). Earlier that month, the Texan sprinter also overcame a headwind to clock a rapid 10.77 (-1.2 m/s) at the USATF Golden Games.

The American is also down to race the women's 200m against the likes of Kambundji, Ta Lou, Olympic bronze medallist Gabrielle Thomas, relay silver medallist Jenna Prandini, world champion Dina Asher-Smith, and American track legend Allyson Felix.