The World Anti-Doping Agency Will Still Include Marijuana On Banned Substances List – Why This Needs To Change
Some of the world’s major sports leagues, such as Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have already progressed with cannabis testing laws by eliminating random THC testing.
On top of that, numerous high-profile elite athletes have already advocated about the benefits of the plant in their chosen career and their own personal health. But despite that, many other sports organizations and leagues still have a zero-tolerance policy for marijuana. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is one of them.
Last summer, American sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended not long after the Tokyo Olympics began since she tested positive for cannabis. As a result, this became another high-profile case that attracted media – as well as the authorities – to have a closer look at the WADA cannabis ban particularly the plant’s use as a performance enhancing drug. According to the WADA, cannabis is still a banned substance since it poses a safety and health risk for their athletes. They also think that cannabis could be a performance-enhancing drug.
According to Richardson, she turned to cannabis to help her cope with her mother’s death at the time. It was not to boost athletic performance.
Just a year ago in September 2021, the Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency had a meeting to discuss some key priorities, one of which was the status of marijuana in the Prohibited List. However, last 2018 the WADA already removed cannabidiol (CBD) from the banned substances list; CBD is not psychoactive but numerous athletes from all around the globe turn to CBD for its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
According to Dr. Peter Brukner, a sports physician as well as a researcher who spent time analyzing medicinal cannabis for a clinical trial, THC is actually not performance-enhancing – instead it can actually do the opposite. “There is no performance enhancement. The reason cannabis is on the banned list is not because of performance enhancement, it is because of legality issues and they didn’t want to encourage athletes to take it,” he disclosed to the Brisbane Times. “Arguably it is performance limiting. There has never been any evidence it is performance enhancing,” he adds.
The WADA Should Remove THC From Banned Substances List
Sure, many people enjoy working out on THC. But its effects on an athlete are more profound after a workout since it can help alleviate pain, anxiety, and inflammation. It can even make the workout more enjoyable and motivate people to exercise. However, there is no evidence that it can contribute to making athletes stronger, bigger, or faster.
The real reason why the WADA refuses to remove THC from the banned substances list is it can still harm sports as a business, and THC is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. They are not doing any good for athletes nor the sports industry as a whole because reinforcing their stance to keep it on the banned substances list is pushing them back instead of forward.
“Richardson was doing something legal in the state that she was in for reasons that, frankly, seemed perfectly understandable – to deny her the chance to compete at the highest level just seem to me absolutely ridiculous,” explains professor Angela Bryan, who teaches neuroscience and psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder, to Scientific American. “I definitely think that WADA should take a look at more current evidence and reevaluate their position,” she added.
The WADA adds that US authorities did not push for the removal of cannabis. A WADA rep disclosed to the Wall Street Journal that “to date neither the United States authorities nor the US Anti-Doping Agency has requested the removal of cannabis from the Prohibited List.”
Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, did argue that they called for change. He disclosed to the Wall Street Journal that the USADA “has advocated for WADA to change its approach to marijuana so a positive test is not a violation unless it was intentionally used to enhance performance or endangers the health or safety of competitors,” reads the Journal.
These days, cannabis is becoming more widely accepted all over the world not just socially but culturally as well. The United States has also been a pioneer in legalizing cannabis for medical or adult use, so it simply makes no sense for US athlete organizations to ban its use by athletes. These policies from WADA aren’t just outdated but they are also harmful and should already be considered a thing of history.
The human endocannabinoid system is responsible for almost all biological functions. Athletes who use marijuana only help complement the endocannabinoid system and not enhance it, which is why it’s simply wrong to put cannabis at the same category as other performance enhancing drugs, which modify how the body works just to increase strength and performance. Cannabis naturally improves the body’s own way of working and there’s nothing more to it than that.
The sad news is that the WADA will probably not change their stance until they have more solid scientific evidence of this. But then again, how will the research strengthen when cannabis is still federally illegal?
For now, let’s look at the sheer number of athletes who are increasingly using cannabis with fantastic results. More athletes are also opening up to their use of marijuana despite the risks it comes with, which will force the authorities into a dialogue about what the plant can do for them as people – not just as athletes.