A group of over 150 current and former athletes is calling for marijuana to be removed form the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substances list.
Medical marijuana legalization is spreading across the US, but most pro-athletes are still prevented from accessing it. That’s because most major sports leagues follow drug guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which bans athletes from using cannabis even outside of competition. Players can receive suspensions if caught using cannabis.
Athletes for CARE requested WADA – the organization that sets drug policy for Olympic sports – remove THC from its banned list in a letter Thursday. Athletes for CARE, a non-profit that advocates for research into cannabis as a treatment for brain injury and other health issues, also announced a petition on Change.org.
“We have found an improved quality of life through cannabis and natural cannabinoids, including significant therapeutic and wellness benefits, and these positives should be freely available to all other athletes,” reads the Athletes for CARE letter sent to the WADA team developing the 2021 banned list.
“In keeping with WADA’s values of ethics, fair play and honesty, the organization owes it to athletes to allow full access to this gentle but effective plant medicine.”
For their part, WADA seems at least open to the idea of one day allowing athletes to use cannabis.
“It is important to note that the list is not static but evolves based on new scientific evidence, as well as, to a lesser degree, changes of use and cultural elements,” WADA spokesperson James Fitzgerald told USA TODAY Sports. “Therefore, WADA maintains dialogue with athletes, administrators, scientific experts and other stakeholders and closely follows the literature in this area to obtain new evidence and information as it becomes available.”
Not all forms of cannabis are currently banned by WADA, however. In 2018, WADA began allowing athletes to use the non-intoxicating cannabis compound CBD, which is most often used to reduce stress, relieve pain and suppress seizures. However, THC – the compound in cannabis that gets you high – continues to be prohibited despite growing evidence that it may be a much more effective painkiller than CBD.
Image – Peter DeJong, AP