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Athletics & Recreation

SIU Professor: Richardson Suspension Shines Light on Elite Athletics' Pressures

2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials - Day 2
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EUGENE, OREGON - JUNE 19: Sha'Carri Richardson runs and celebrates in the Women's 100 Meter semifinal on day 2 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 19, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

An SIU Professor says the suspension of Sha'Carri Richardson over a positive marijuana test highlights the complex nature of elite sports competitions - and it's something he thinks should be carefully reviewed.

Phil Anton is the director of SIU's Exercise Science program. He says Richardson's suspension effectively eliminates a highly anticipated race at the Tokyo Olympics - where she would face off against Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price.

"That was going to be one of the absolutely huge highlights - because the sprints are always a big deal at the Olympics - but that was going to be a monstrous event, and now, unless it's overturned, it's not going to happen."

Anton says the incident shines a spotlight on performance-enhancing drugs, and says there is a school of thought that athletes are being pushed too far - mentally and physically.

He says the pressure to be the best, with the cleanest record, is a heavy burden for athletes.

"I would definitely, definitely be on the side of we are pushing the athletes too far from the perspective of keeping them completely, 100% clean of any sort of substance."

Still, Anton says Richardson and other athletes at that level know the risk they take when they choose to use any substance - and that those risks have consequences.

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