Canadian Ross Rebagliati won gold at the first Olympic snowboarding competition in 1998, but he was stripped of his medal after testing positive for marijuana. Happily for Rebagliati, his medal was returned to him after it was discovered that cannabis wasn’t on the banned substances list and there was no provision in the IOC’s rules for marijuana testing. The committee banned marijuana in 1999.
No one in 1998 could have predicted it, but twenty years later there’s been a sea-change when it comes to cannabis. Last September, the Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that it would remove cannabidiol (CBD) from its 2018 prohibited substances list.
WADA develops the drug code for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), as well as 660 other sports organizations, so the decision has significant reach.
But could the ruling by WADA influence the NFL Players Association and other professional sports associations to change their stance on CBD and/or cannabis?
CBD is one of the 60+ compounds found in cannabis, and it produces little to no psychoactive effects. CBD has numerous therapeutic benefits, including relieving pain and inflammation, reducing anxiety, and even preventing and treating traumatic brain injury.
Changes in marijuana laws across the U.S. have helped normalize cannabis use, and there are an increasing number of athletes who want an alternative to opioids and painkillers, and anti-inflammatories.
“CBD can help these athletes feel better during their career, ultimately prolonging it. Then, when their career is over, they don’t leave the game with any addiction or health issues,” said former NFL defensive end Marvin Washington.
In 2016, UFC fighter Nate Diaz received a public warning from the USADA after using a CBD vape after a match. “It’s CBD,” said Diaz. “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”