Cannabis has been getting a lot of attention at the 2020 Olympic games. With broad yet slow legalization across the US and Canada over the past few years, we are beginning to see changing attitudes in the west on the topic of the drug.
US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, however, missed out on the Tokyo games because of testing positive for marijuana during the field trials. So, this raises the question, with it being legal in most of North America, why is it still legal across sports? Generally, there are no serious arguments regarding cannabis being a performance-enhancing drug.
The only other reasons for a substance being banned is that it harms the health of the athlete, and is against the spirit of the sport.
More than ever before, athletes have begun opening up about their usage of cannabis. In fact, it’s CBD specifically – the non-psychoactive version of cannabis without the THC – that is most commonly talked about. For example, Megan Rapinoe, the gold medalist and prominent player for the US soccer women’s team, states how important CBD is to her regular training schedule.
Many have pointed out the inconsistency between the treatment of Rapinoe and Richardson, especially given that Richardson was caught using cannabis shortly after the death of her mother. There is more news with CBD and its differences from cannabis.
Of course, it could be argued that cannabis with THC is more harmful, and thus violates this sporting health rule, however, Rapinoe is claiming it’s part of her training schedule, thus also suggesting it’s enhancing performance – though this it’s unlikely to ever be recognized as such.
Of course, it’s not just the US in the Olympics, and it’s not just the US’s view on cannabis that matters. Whilst this year has highlighted the issues and inconsistencies surrounding banning cannabis more than ever before (in part because of its legalization in the US), it isn’t necessarily viewed the same way by other nations.
Cannabis laws in Tokyo, for example, are extremely heavy – as they are in many nations still. However, CBD oil is very much legal in Japan. So, the Olympic – and apparently legal – debate comes down to THC alone, and the threats it poses to athletes.
Though, we can argue that the acceptance of CBD oil in the Olympics is a huge step forward to recognizing the utility of cannabis in society – with or without THC. If CBD is being openly used by world-class athletes, it breaks the taboo barrier surrounding the plant, as we see what it can offer.
Of course, it could raise PED alarm bells for those that are strongly against any normalization of cannabis, but this isn’t likely to stick. What is yet to be seen is when more athletes are open about their legal cannabis usage in the US, Canada, and elsewhere on an international stage – as this could put pressure on the Olympics to change its rules despite many nations having no intention of legalizing the substance anytime soon.