Movers and SHAKERS
Image Credit: Bruce Detorres (Flickr)
Marijuana is Winning the Sports Battle
THC is a restricted chemical in athletic competition for sports leagues and federations that have signed on to the World Anti-Doping Code. The Code, sometimes referred to as WADA, is a document aimed to define what is and is not permitted for athlete use for the protection of the validity of the sports that have signed it — and for the health of the athletes. Consistency among sports organizations across the globe has been the WADA objective since being founded in 1999.
Organizations at Odds with WADA
Just as the legitimacy and safety of cannabis products have produced state laws at odds with the overriding federal government, so too do the athletic commissions of some states that, in defiance, have removed their marijuana THC prohibitions in many sports.
The Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) unanimously agreed on Wednesday (July 7) to change its policy and amend its anti-doping rules by removing the threat of suspension over cannabis use or possession for boxers. There are no longer any penalties threatening the athletes. Fighters would still be barred from the ring if they demonstrate intoxication. Ring sports in Nevada, boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA), are revered as first-class, this was pointed out by the Commission Chair Stephen Cloobeck, “I think being the gold standard with regard to combat sports—both [Mixed Martial Arts] and boxing—being a world-class destination, and having our state show the leadership and the fortitude in light of some of the recent circumstances we’ve all seen on television, we should be always at the forefront of these issues,” Cloobeck said at Wednesday’s meeting. Drug tests for marijuana will still continue for the next six months for “data collection purposes.”
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) praised the commission’s action on Wednesday.
In May of 2021, The Florida State Boxing Commission stopped testing fighters for marijuana. At the time, Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Florida NAC said, “Marijuana is considered to be a substance of abuse and not a performance-enhancing drug.” He explained, “I think our goal is to test for performance-enhancing drugs in an effort to ensure there’s a level playing field.”
In January the USADA and UFC announced they would no longer punish ring sports athletes with positive marijuana tests. It’s important to note that the UFC is not a signatory of WADA so the restrictions are not the same as athletes that are being ranked for international competitions including the Olympics.
An official statement this Tuesday from USA Track & Field (USATF), the nation’s governing body for running, was referring to a new case where a runner who was favored for a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics was suspended, it read: that it’s currently unwilling to amend its own internal rules to make an exception in her case; however, it also said that international policy on cannabis punishing athletes “should be reevaluated.”
As part of a collective bargaining contract, the NFL’s policy related to cannabis changed in 2020. Under the policy, NFL players will not face the risk of suspension from games over positive tests for any drug. Marijuana, of course, falls within that umbrella of protection.
In 2019 Major League Baseball decided to remove the herb from its list of banned substances. Players may consume marijuana without risk of discipline but may not play under the influence.
The NBA is currently operating under a temporary policy to not randomly test for THC. This could soon become permanent. Rather than mandate blanket tests, Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”
Recently Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in regards to federal cannabis laws being at odds with many state laws, “The Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.” As marijuana has various levels of acceptance within the public sphere, there are also various levels of rules that at times seem to conflict.
Professional sports and other entertainers often lead the way to full public acceptance of a once-taboo idea. While there have been athletes over the years who have lost advertising sponsorships for Marijuana use, it may not be too far off when we see this turned around, where athletes are openly endorsing a marijuana product for compensation.
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