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WADA to Maintain its Ban on Cannabis in Sports

Ed Knight

By Ed Knight

September 27, 2022

The answers lie in the evidence

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Friday

that it will maintain its ban on cannabis use in sporting events such as the , a year after it said it would consider removing it from the list of prohibited substances. 

WADA said that its executive committee ultimately heeded the recommendation from the List Expert Advisory Group, which provides advice and counsel on the banned substances list.

Since last year, the agency said the advisory group, “which is composed of independent, experts in pharmacology, forensic toxicology, substances of abuse, analytical science, pharmacy, sports medicine, chemistry, endocrinology, internal medicine, regulatory affairs, peptides and growth factors, and hematology, from nine countries around the world, embarked on a full and thorough review of the status in sport of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.” 

The advisory group’s recommendations on which substances belong on the list hinge on three central criteria: whether it “has the potential to enhance sport performance”; whether it “represents a health risk to the athlete”; and whether it “violates the spirit of sport (as defined by the [World Anti-Doping Agency] Code),”

as “the core document that harmonizes anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and among public authorities around the world.”

WADA said that its advisers, in making their recommendation, “consider cannabis use, at this time, to be against the spirit of sport across a range of areas as listed in the Code.”

The decision represents a disappointment for cannabis reform advocates and others who were outraged last year when American sprinter

was suspended before the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cannabis. 

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WADA Decision Follows Scientific Review

After the ensuing outcry, the World Anti-Doping Agency

last September that it would take up a recommendation from the advisory group to initiate “a scientific review of the status of cannabis.”

Olivier Niggli, the director general of the agency, acknowledged on Friday that the decision will not be popular with many, but said that WADA will continue to examine the matter.

“The question of how THC should be dealt with in a sporting context is not straightforward. WADA is aware of the diversity of opinions and perceptions related to this substance around the world, and even within certain countries. WADA is also mindful that the few requests for THC’s removal from the Prohibited List are not supported by the experts’ thorough review. We are also conscious that the laws of many countries — as well as broad international regulatory laws and policies — support maintaining cannabis on the List at this time,” Niggli said in a statement. “WADA plans to continue research in this area in relation with THC’s potential performance enhancing effects, its impact on the health of athletes and also in relation to perceptions of cannabis from athletes, experts and others around the world.”

The decision on Friday did not come as a surprise after outlets such as the

reported earlier this month that the agency was set to keep cannabis on the banned list.

Richardson was suspended last summer shortly after she won the 100 meter dash at the United States Olympic trials. 

The suspension sparked widespread outrage among fellow athletes and those in the political arena, with many mocking the notion that cannabis could be considered a “performance-enhancing drug” for an athlete.

“Marijuana isn’t a performance-enhancing drug unless you’re in a hot dog eating contest on Coney Island. To take away Sha’Carri Richardson’s dream to compete in the Olympics is absurd,” Democratic U.S. House Rep. Steve Cohen

at the time.

Founded in 1999,

is “an international independent agency composed and funded by the sport movement and governments of the world,” its central responsibility is the “scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code – the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.”

Ed Knight

About The Author

Ed Knight

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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