Admittedly, there are many things I don’t understand. Today I received an email from the good folks at Meetup.com that informed me there are still people who play Dungeons and Dragons. Back when the game first came out, people so struggled to distinguish the game from reality that they would kill themselves believing they could roll a double six on postmortem dice and get a new life. Nobody ever really said what made these people believe this [drugs], but parents tried to blame the game [drugs] for their children’s death [drugs].
Then you have Sha’Carri Richardson, an American Olympic athlete who has been suspended from the team for one month because she tested positive for marijuana. The testing done on athletes is generally for performance enhancing drugs. The fact that marijuana is still being tested for in a world where it has been legalized in many places – and the list grows every day – is absurd. Clearly, marijuana is not a performance enhancing drug. Nevertheless, it remains on the list of substances for which the USOC tests. Athletes know this.
I am a patient at a pain clinic. As part of the protocol at the clinic, I am subject to random drug tests. I live in Wisconsin where medical marijuana hasn’t been legalized, but I could take an hour’s drive into Illinois where recreational marijuana is legal. People have asked me why I don’t do that for pain relief. The answer is that it would cause me to fail my pain clinic drug test. I know this, so I don’t do it. I make an informed choice, and so did Sha’Carri Richardson.
We live in a culture that seems to believe that rules are optional, and that if you break a rule but then scream loudly you can become exempt from the rule. That’s just not true, nor is such a perspective fair to the people who don’t break the rules, who are distraught from a loss but choose to use a substance to ease their pain (not a good idea, by the way) that isn’t going to cause them to suffer a consequence they would like to avoid. The fact that the rule is archaic is irrelevant. Her status as an elite athlete is irrelevant, though we need to ask ourselves why we don’t see a similar uproar for every athlete who fails a drug test.
Suppose the worst football player in history, let’s call him Tim Tebow, failed a drug test for marijuana. Outside of Evangelicals, would there be a similar outcry? Of course not, because he is awful. We need to stop treating people who are good at something as if they were exempt from the rules to which the rest of us are subject. Being good at something does offer a host of opportunities less fortunate people cannot access. Those opportunities come with strings attached. If you don’t want the strings, then don’t expect the opportunities.