Marijuana offers a wide range of benefits for athletes’ brain and body. Cannabidiol may be beneficial for those suffering from anxiety-related disorders. Additionally, it is also employed to reduce inflammation, allows athletes to inhale larger amounts of breath into their lungs, and boosts endurance.
On January 1st 2020, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published a new list of in-competition prohibited substances, and declared that pro sports players will not be sanctioned for the use of cannabis to relieve pain as long as the medication used (which may be in the form of oil, vapes, tincture or cream) does not contain THC, the psychoactive compound of cannabis.
This decision was validated by Diego Grippo, president of the National Anti-Doping Organization of Argentina, a governmental agency reporting to WADA that is responsible for adopting and implementing anti-doping rules, conducting investigations, and managing test results.
Until 2016, WADA penalised all cannabis components and uses in the same way. For example, a professional player could face a two-to-four-year sanction for doing weed or cocaine in a social context.
Can Pro Athletes Smoke Weed?
In 2016, Olympic athletes were allowed to do weed without punishment by the World Anti-Doping Agency. After amending its rules on cannabis, WADA raised the maximum THC threshold from 15 nanograms per millilitre to 150 ng/ml, so that less athletes exceed this limit and get banned from competitions.
However, cannabis users will only be allowed to do so days before or after competing; in-competition use remained prohibited, and this has not changed to date.
In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report claiming that cannabidiol, one of the main active components of marijuana, should not be classified as a drug because of its palliative properties used for treating chronic diseases and epilepsy.
According to the WHO, cannabidiol, which is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant, shows a low affinity at CB1 receptors so it cannot cause psychoactive effects. Additionally, according to existing evidence, cannabis has no adverse effects nor abuse potential. “To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD,” the study finds.
As stated in the same report, the clinical use of CBD is most advanced in the treatment of epilepsy, but it can also be an effective treatment for a number of other medical conditions.
“The range of conditions for which CBD has been assessed is diverse, consistent with its neuroprotective, antiepileptic, hypoxia-ischemia, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic, and antitumor properties. Apart from this, another possible therapeutic application which has been investigated is the use of CBD to treat drug addiction. However, considerably more research is required to evaluate CBD as a potential treatment,” the WHO states.
Yet, growing, and using medical cannabis, as well as researching on its benefits, are still matters that must be settled by each country and its courts. Canada and Uruguay are at the forefront because they realised that legalisation was the way forward. Latin American countries are following the same path and are now venturing into research on their own strains, grown in their own territory, as in case of Argentina.
Pre-Workout Joint: Athletes Who Smoke Weed
Cliff Robinson, ex-NBA player, was the first athlete who smoked weed to be open about the benefits of cannabis within the world of sports. In fact, “Uncle Cliffy,” its company engaged in cannabis cultivation and sale, is still standing and honouring this athlete, who passed away at the age of 53 in 2020. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr also endorsed the legalisation of cannabis as a form of pain relief in an interview with NBC Sports.
Athletes such as the most decorated Olympian, Michael Phelps, or the fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt, admitted smoking weed, ending the preconceived idea that drugs ruin your sports career.
The challenge faced by cannabis-related entities and associations is to achieve legal reforms that help each country introduce education and research policies concerning this plant and its uses, as well as safe access to CBD in all its forms with laws that favour those patients who need it and sportspeople who prefer cannabis over other kinds of drugs.