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As Megan Rapinoe Promotes CBD Use, Sha'Carri Richardson Sits Out The Olympics

Megan Rapinoe says she uses a variety of CBD products as part of the "all-natural recovery system" that has become part of her daily routine.
Michael Wyke
Megan Rapinoe says she uses a variety of CBD products as part of the "all-natural recovery system" that has become part of her daily routine.

U.S. soccer superstar and Olympian Megan Rapinoe has been slinging her own CBD products and promoting their benefits for athletes at the Olympics, and people on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are not having it.

Critics are outraged over alleged hypocrisy and even racism, saying the anti-doping agency for the Olympic Games is ignoring the actions of the white athlete on the heels of suspending Black sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson after she tested positive for marijuana this month.

The controversy gained traction after a glowing story about Rapinoe and her sister's CBD brand, Mendi, appeared on last week. The piece also included a list of Olympians — hurdler Devon Allen, softball outfielder Haylie McCleney and WNBA champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird — who will serve as ambassadors for the cannabinoid-based products.

CBD and THC are natural compounds of the cannabis plant that have very different biological effects. THC is the intoxicating compound that makes users feel temporarily high, while CBD is believed to have more anti-inflammatory properties, Daniele Piomelli, director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California, Irvine, told NPR.

Rapinoe says CBD has become part of her routine

In an email to Forbes, Rapinoe described the ways in which she uses Mendi CBD products and their impact on her body and mind.

"CBD has become part of my all-natural recovery system that I use throughout the day to help with pain and inflammation, stabilize my mood and get better sleep. Instead of taking Advil or other pain management meds, I've almost exclusively substituted with Mendi CBD products," she wrote, adding, "It's truly part of my entire day."

She lamented the fact that she will be competing in Tokyo without a combination of gel pills and gummies, as traveling internationally with cannabis products can be risky.

"It's my go-to to calm me down after a hard training or game, as well as for sleep," she explained. "I've noticed a significant difference in my stress and anxiety levels when I am consistently using Mendi CBD products versus when I don't."

After Richardson was suspended from competition, the runner revealedthat she used marijuana after finding out about the death of her mother from a reporter during an interview.

Doping officials treat CBD differently

Much of the public outcry is over the fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) allows athletes to use CBD but prohibits all other natural and synthetic cannabinoids.

Both were banned until Jan. 1, 2018, when new rules went into effect. WADA explains that substances on its verboten list satisfy two of these three criteria:

  • It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance
  • It represents an actual or potential health risk to the athletes
  • It violates the spirit of sport
  • It is unclear which of the criteria THC violates. WADA did not respond to NPR's request for comment.

    Richardson's fans are calling it hypocrisy

    Upset Richardson supporters, who view WADA's THC vs. CBD policies as hypocritical, have unleashed a torrent of criticism against Rapinoe online.

    One Twitter user wrote, "I am tired of the rubbish and how far white institutions will continue to go to move the finish line for black people and then double down on their rubbish when it is called out for being racist."

    Another said: "White supremacy is banning Sha'Carri Richardson for smoking weed while Megan Rapinoe gets praised for her use of CBD. Highly reminiscent of how crack cocaine is infinitely more heavily criminalized than powder cocaine to ensure the disproportionate incarceration of Black people."

    "I now expect part of sha'carri richardson's reparations to come directly out of megan rapinoe and her sister's CBD company's profits," someone else tweeted.

    Meanwhile, Women Grow, a group that promoted the Forbes story on Instagram, has removed its post and issued a statement acknowledging its "miscommunication," saying that the post's "optics were not as intended."

    "We took for granted that, through social media, our reach is far beyond the cannabis industry, where there is an understanding of nuances surrounding hemp & cannabis. At the same time, we know this nuance is systemically weaponized by those benefiting from the War on Drugs," the group wrote.

    It added: "Women Grow has always been and will continue to be an advocate for the legalization of all aspects of the cannabis plant as a pathway to restorative justice, health, entrepreneurship, and healing. Our focus is for all women to benefit from cannabis and hemp on their terms."

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    Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.