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Viral posts mislead on Richardson’s Olympic replacement

July 7, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: A tweet by Victory News Network shows that 4th place runner Rebecca Washington is set to replace Sha’Carri Richardson on the U.S. Olympic team. The Mormon athlete says she hopes to help inspire the nation’s children to say “no” to drugs.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. Victory News Network posts parody on social media. The 4th place runner in the 2021 Olympic trials is Jenna Prandini, who will be Sha’Carri Richardson’s replacement on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team.

THE FACTS: On Friday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson accepted a one-month suspension after testing positive for marijuana, The Associated Press reported. Her win in the Olympic trials was also disqualified.

Misinformation swirled on social media following the decision.

On Tuesday, a tweet from parody account Victory News Network showed split screen photos of Richardson and Prandini. “4th place runner Rebecca Washington is set to replace Sha’Carri Richardson on the U.S. Olympic team. The Mormon athlete says she hopes to help inspire the nation’s children to say “no” to drugs,” reads the tweet.

The initial tweet misrepresented several details surrounding Richardson’s replacement. The misleading post was picked up by other social media users on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, who framed it as presenting accurate information.

After the tweet gained traction on social media, Victory News Network clarified that none of what it posts is real.

“This is a parody account,” Victory News Network posted on Twitter on Monday. “We write funny fake news. If you see someone taking one of our made-up stories way too seriously, please let them know it’s a joke.”

Prandini came in fourth place during the Olympic trials for the 100-meter race, and she will be replacing Richardson. However, everything else about the post is false. The post attributes the image of Prandini to Rebecca Washington. But no one named Rebecca Washington is listed on the USA Track and Field website as having qualified for the women’s 100.

Prandini also denied making any statements regarding Richardson’s suspension.

“I’m excited to be representing my country for my second Olympics in the 200 meters!” Prandini said in a statement on Twitter. “However, I am saddened to have to address the hateful and fake articles now circulating. Any article claiming I have made statements regarding the current situation are completely false.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536