Two steps forward, two steps back. When “the rules” exclude compassion, we all lose in this race.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, (which ironically sits in Montreal, Quebec, Canada – one of the biggest adult use/recreational cannabis countries in the world), still prohibits the use of cannabinoids (except for CBD) and lists THC as a Substance of Abuse (along with cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy). Guess which substances are not on ANY list? Nicotine and Alcohol. (Spoiler alert, alcohol companies sponsor the Olympics and most major sporting events worldwide).
As some of you have already heard, Sha’Carri Richardson, a gold-medal favorite in the women’s 100 meters and presumably the anchor of the 4X100 relay, was suspended for a month and may very well miss the Tokyo Olympics altogether.
What Substances Are Prohibited By Sports Bodies
Cannabinoids (except for CBD) are still considered “Prohibited In-Competition” by the WADA. The US Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (which includes US Track & Field) are both members to the WADA and are, therefore, bound to follow its rules. The WADA generally defines a prohibition “In-Competition” as “the period commencing just before midnight (at 11:59 p.m.) on the day before a Competition in which the Athlete is scheduled to participate until the end of the Competition and the Sample collection process”. Specific to THC, a “Substances of Abuse” is identified as such because they are frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport. The following are the designated Substances of Abuse:
- diamorphine (heroin)
- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA/”ecstasy”)
- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Yes, ALL cannabinoids (except for CBD) are banned and THC is specifically considered to be at the same level as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. We haven’t analyzed the reasoning behind the seemingly arbitrary time limits regarding when “in-competition” begins, but that’s something the Olympic Committee and Sha’Carri’s lawyers should probably look into.
What Does The Future Look Like For Cannabis and Sports?
The cannabis industry has made significant progress in the United States and internationally. From absolute prohibition, we’ve seen jurisdictions move to decriminalization, medical use, and some have already opened up to adult (recreational) use. However, as long as the Federal Government, other countries and international bodies (like the WADA) continue to prohibit cannabis use by adults, particularly for health and wellness reasons, we’ll continue to dance like Paula Abdul… taking 2 steps forward, then 2 steps back.
As a former athlete, I am against the use of performance enhancing substances, but to arbitrarily throw cannabis in there with all the other substances on the list is not only archaic, but also scientifically unfounded. It’s been over 40 years since Ted Kennedy’s words, but as an industry we must continue to apply them as our own: “… the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
If you’re in a position to speak up, create awareness, educate and lovingly share information about cannabis use, I invite you to do so. A lot of people could benefit from it. You could be helping someone deal with something you have no idea they’re going through. Sha’Carri claims that she used cannabis just before the competition, after finding out her mother had died. When compassion is at odds with the law, it’s time to change the law. Over 4th of July Weekend, as America celebrated its Freedom and Independence, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the injustices of cannabis prohibition and the failed war on drugs. A plant created by God is not the enemy. Denying humans dignity is.