Olympians are now permitted to test positive for marijuana usage prior to competition. It may seem like some sort of parallel universe, but it is true. The World Anti-Doping Agency, responsible for substance testing before and during the Olympic games, has recently raised its threshold for the active chemical in marijuana (THC) to almost 10 times the former limit.
Legally, Olympians are permitted to contain 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Small concentrations of the chemical commonly reside in the body for several days after use. Athletes no longer have to fear the loss of their career due to a casual cannabis cloud.
The recent adjustment to the rulebook has stirred up many emotions concerning marijuana use in the competition world. Some very prominent athletes have suffered some pretty severe consequences in the past. In 2009, decorated swimmer, Michael Phelps was ridiculed for his appearance in a photo with a bong. He was suspended from competition for a full three months and lost a highly lucrative contract with Kellogg’s.
In 1998, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati had his gold medal stripped from him after testing positive for marijuana. After a long appeal, the Canadian athlete’s win was reinstated, but the struggle he faced can never be erased.
Though the allowance is controversial, there aren’t too many Olympians that are concerned with the change. It seems a challenge to link marijuana use to any sort of performance enhancement. There are also many health benefits that have been firmly linked to the drug.
— Farmer to Patient (@CACannabisOil) August 4, 2016
Marijuana use is permitted for medicinal purposes in 20 out of the 50 states in the U.S., but it is still not legal on the federal level. The Obama administration did, however, make it possible and legal for banks to do business with licensed marijuana establishments. This is considered a huge win for small dispensary owners in states where weed is legal for recreational uses.
Olympians are not permitted to ingest THC during their active participation in the games. There are a few specifications that prohibit such usage. International Olympic Committee medical director, Dr. Richard Budgett, says that there are three main variables that are considered when deciding whether or not a substance’s presence in the body is acceptable during active competition.
If the chemical is attributed to performance enhancement, then it is not acceptable. If a chemical is considered to pose a viable health risk, then it is not acceptable. The final criterion used to determine fitness is whether or not the substance is considered to violate the spirit of the sport.
These standards are in place to set clear boundaries for Olympians. According to the IOC, marijuana has been decided to be a substance that can, in fact, have performance enhancing benefits.
In an interview, Dr. Budgett reportedly said that “it was decided that it shouldn’t be an absolutely essential criterion, so we can still prohibit substance and methods that are just against the spirit of sport and harmful to health. You don’t have to have evidence of performance enhancement.”
The raise in the permitted marijuana threshold was reportedly the World Anti-Doping Agency’s attempt to correct a complicated issue. They are trying to make accommodations for Olympians who use marijuana casually (outside of competition), and those who tend to surround themselves with smokers.
As for Michael Phelps and Ross Rebagliati, they’re enjoying lives full of success and plenty of marijuana. If Olympians are permitted to test positive for marijuana prior to competition, then these guys will have no issue. THC certainly has not stunted their paths.
[Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/AP Images]