A Runner’s High is Freedom’s Low 

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.
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Freedom is serious business, and whenever I see this cherished value threatened, I feel compelled to run to its rescue. And “run” here is the appropriate word because the issue at hand is that one runner’s “high” is what I consider an example of freedom’s low.

Last week, American sprinter and perhaps the fastest woman on the planet, Sha’Carri Richardson, was suspended and effectively banned from competing in the Tokyo Olympics. The reason why was she tested positive for marijuana at the Olympic trials. More specifically, and the specifics matter here, Richardson tested positive for an inactive THC metabolite during U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 19.

Translation for those who aren’t familiar with the science: that means Richardson wasn’t “high” while she competed. It means that her blood had traces of the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which can remain in the bloodstream for days and even weeks after use.

Still, Richardson didn’t deny her drug use. In fact, she admitted it and then apologized for what she knew was a violation of the rules. In a tweet following the positive drug test, Richardson wrote that she was sorry she couldn’t be our Olympic champ this year, but she promised to be our world champ next year. Hey, I love this woman’s confidence.

Of course, there are those who crassly criticize Richardson for violating the rules, saying that she is guilty of “smoking her opportunity away in violation of the eligibility rules.” 

Yet to me, this isn’t an example of someone defying the rules. Rather, it is an example of bogus, unfair and silly restrictions on personal freedom being imposed on individuals by inconsistent, irrational laws and overzealous governing bodies.

Consider that in Oregon, where Richardson smoked marijuana, recreational marijuana use has been legal since 2014. Moreover, there are now 18 states, plus Washington, D.C., that allow both recreational and medical marijuana use. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, those states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

So, if you are fortunate enough to live in one of these states, at least you have slightly more freedom than you otherwise would have if you lived elsewhere.

Yet apparently, that freedom doesn’t apply to Sha’Carri Richardson. 

You see, her life and her freedom are further subject to additional rules set under the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code, rules enforced by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which is the official testing organization for the Olympics. Under these rules, THC is considered a “substance of abuse,” and according to the organization, it is because THC is “frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport.” 

Yet as Jacob Sullum writes at Reason.com

“Counterintuitively, Richardson’s infraction had nothing to do with ‘doping,’ as it is usually understood, since the USADA concedes that her marijuana use was ‘unrelated to sport performance.’ Nor does her positive test result indicate that she was under the influence of marijuana during competition, since the THC metabolite cited by the USADA can be detected in a cannabis consumer’s urine for days or weeks after the last dose.”

So, let’s get the facts correct here. 

Richardson engaged in a legal act of marijuana consumption per the laws of the state of Oregon. Moreover, her drug use was unrelated to her winning performance at the Olympic Trials, as marijuana is not considered a “performance enhancing drug” per USADA regulations. 

Now I ask you, does her suspension from competing in her sport seem at all to be fair, just or rational to you? 

Yet still, even though these arbitrary and irrational rules exist, Richardson did know she was violating the rules when she decided to smoke marijuana. So, why would she do this? Well, according to her, she used the drug after learning about her biological mother’s death.

So, a 21-year-old coping with the sadness of her mother’s death by using a legal substance is the reason for her being banned from doing what she is arguably the best in the world at doing. 

Does that seem right to you? It doesn’t to me. In fact, it seems preposterous. 

I submit that you have to be insensitive, callous and/or lack any sense of compassion if you are ready to vilify Richardson for this. Oh, and keep in mind that if she had chosen to cope with her mother’s death by drinking alcohol, her choice would have had zero impact on her athletic career.

This whole episode is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our drug laws, and with the arbitrariness of irrational rules imposed on our freedoms by governments and by organizations that appear to delight in levying control. 

The way I see it, if you care about your liberty, you should support Sha’Carri Richardson. I know I will be rooting for her future success, and the future of freedom. 

P.S. If you want to revel in a real celebration of freedom this summer, then join me, Dr. Mark Skousen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, John Mackey, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Jo Jorgenson, Larry Elder, Heather Wagenhals, Rich Checkan and a host of other luminaries in just two weeks, live, right under the nose of Mt. Rushmore? That’s right, it’s time for the best week of the year, FreedomFest 2021. This year’s theme is “Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.” The conference takes place July 21-24, in Rapid City, South Dakota. So, if you are looking for a place to celebrate freedom and to immerse yourself in pro-human, pro-reason and pro-wealth ideas, then FreedomFest is for you! To see the full schedule, go here!

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On Freedom and Rebellion 

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“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

–Albert Camus

The philosopher, author and journalist Albert Camus is known for his “absurdist” views, which he said arose from the fundamental disharmony between the individual’s search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe. Yet in my view, an individual’s search for meaning is their personal search about what their life means to them, and not some cosmic meaning “out there” in the universe. Yet, as I think Camus rightly remarks here, if we can be absolutely free in an unfree world, we can celebrate that freedom as an act of rebellion. And so, let the rebellion begin!

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

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