The Universal Notebook: Straight dope on the Olympic Games

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So sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson will not get to compete in the Tokyo Olympics because she smoked a joint. Talk about hypocrisy.

Why marijuana is even on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances is a mystery. Booze isn’t, but bud is? 

Marijuana, as anyone who has used it can tell you, is not a performance-enhancing drug. No one ever ran faster or jumped higher because they were stoned. They just imagined they did. In fact, one of the more salutatory effects of smoking dope might be to dull one’s competitive instincts, a worthy accomplishment in my humble opinion.

When it comes to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics I hate to be cynical, but why even bother? Seriously.

Japan doesn’t have COVID-19 under control, competitors’ friends and families – let alone the American public – can’t attend, and the Japanese citizens who can attend will not be allowed to cheer for fear they will spread germs around the venues.

So call it off. The only reason not to is moolah, starting with the $4 billion the International Olympic Committee gets for television rights.

I hate to say so, but Olympic athletes are the human equivalents of racehorses and trained seals. Every four years we trot them out on the world stage to run, jump, swim, dive and tumble for our amusement. Then, except for the two or three who sell sneakers, cereal, and soft drinks, we forget they exist until the next Olympics.

The skills that Olympic athletes spend their young lives honing are useless in everyday life. Running around in circles and jumping into a sandbox are not life skills. And, even when athletes are successful, their accomplishments benefit no one other than themselves, game organizers, and sponsors.

Distance runner Rachel Schneider, a Sanford native who went to high school across the river in New Hampshire, is Maine’s only Olympian this year. Giovanni McKenzie, a graduate of Mount Desert Island High School, will be competing for Jamaica. But two Mainers with high hopes failed to qualify. 

Ben True of North Yarmouth finished fourth, just out of the money, in the 10K. And Lakes Region High grad Kate Hall-Harnden tore an ACL in January that kept her from competing in the long jump trials.

Olympic dreams die hard. Hall’s personal best was a jump of 22 feet 5 inches, but that was six years ago in high school. She hasn’t jumped that far since. All three of the Olympic long jump qualifiers jumped much farther, one of them almost a foot farther. So it may be time to look beyond the Olympics.

Richardson, she of the orange hair and four-inch nails, has been defended by noted potheads like former NFL running back Ricky Williams and actor Seth Rogen. Neither the NFL nor the NBA now suspends players for using marijuana, which is legal in most states.

“The notion that weed is a problematic ‘drug’ is rooted in racism,” Rogen tweeted. “It’s insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred. It’s something (they) should be ashamed of. Also if weed made you fast, I’d be (Florence Joiner).”

Ultimately, it’s time we rethink the Olympic Games. There have been calls to decentralize them, holding events all over the world rather than selling the franchise to just one country. And there have also been suggestions that countries with documented human rights violations should not be allowed to host the Olympics.

I’m not sure where that would leave the USA.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.