Fact check: Claim wrong about Sha'Carri Richardson replacement and anti-drug message

·4 min read

The claim: Sha’Carri Richardson is being replaced on the U.S. Olympic team by Rebecca Washington, a Mormon runner who wants to inspire kids to say no to drugs

Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension for a positive marijuana test left an opening on Team USA.

But posts circulating on social media suggesting her replacement in the 100-meter race is pushing an anti-drug message are incorrect.

In one, a Twitter account called VictoryNewsNet claims Richardson is being replaced by Rebecca Washington, a Mormon runner who wants to inspire kids to say no to drugs. Screenshots of the tweet have been shared on Facebook and Instagram as well.

A July 5 Instagram post of the screenshot was liked more than 8,000 times.

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The tweet is wrong, though. The runner who took Richardson’s spot on the U.S. Olympic team is Jenna Prandini. Prandini said on Twitter she has made no statements about the situation.

Claim started with parody account

The Twitter account where the claim originated said in a July 5 tweet that it is a parody account. But the screenshot shared on Instagram on July 5 fooled at least some of the commenters.

“The comment she made was unnecessary,” one commenter responded, while others pointed out that it was fake.

It's an example of what could be called "stolen satire," where stories written as satire and presented that way originally are captured via screenshot and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.

VictoryNewsNet could not be reached for comment. The account, which had fewer than 400 followers as of July 6, links in its bio to a website that does not exist.

Two-time national champion Jenna Prandini, a 2016 Rio Olympian, cruises to the finish in the semifinals of the women's 200 meters.
Two-time national champion Jenna Prandini, a 2016 Rio Olympian, cruises to the finish in the semifinals of the women's 200 meters.

Richardson’s replacement

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced on July 2 that Richardson had accepted a month-long suspension after testing positive for marijuana. Richardson said she used marijuana after learning from a reporter about the death of her biological mother during the Olympic trials.

Known for her flair on the track, Richardson had broken out as a star during the trials. She won the 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in June with a time of 10.86 seconds and immediately ran into the stands, orange hair flowing, to hug her grandmother.

But the positive test invalidated her qualifying run, and Richardson will not compete in the 100-meter dash at the Tokyo games.

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Prandini, who finished fourth in the 100-meter trial, will replace Richardson in the event at the delayed 2020 Olympic games this summer. The second- and third-place finishers also are on the team, along with an alternate.

None of them are named Rebecca Washington, as the post circulating on social media claims.

PACE Sports Management, which represents Prandini, posted to its Twitter account on July 3 that Prandini had been the subject of “a number of fabricated, hurtful and nasty comments.”

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Prandini retweeted that statement from her own account, saying she was excited to represent the U.S. in another event, the 200-meter for which she had already qualified, in her second Olympics.

“However, I am saddened to have to address the hateful and fake articles now circulating,” she said. “Any article claiming I have made statements regarding the current situation are completely false.”

Our rating: False

The claim that Richardson is being replaced on the U.S. Olympic team by Washington, a Mormon runner who wants to inspire kids to say no to drugs is FALSE, based on our research. Prandini is replacing Richardson at the Tokyo games. Prandini has made no statements about Richardson and posted on Twitter to “address the hateful and fake articles now circulating.” This claim originated on a satire account but was then screenshotted and shared elsewhere on social media as fact.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Claim wrong about Sha'Carri Richardson replacement