Should Cannabis be Banned for Athletes?

Cannabis is a topic of endless debate, and more so in recent years than ever before. The negative connotations associated with it are plentiful, but not necessarily factual. It has come to light more and more that cannabis is a natural herb, and that perhaps its legal status should be examined more realistically. Today, many countries around the globe – which previously held cannabis at an arm’s length, due to its reputation – are taking a more serious look at this herb: its effects, its dangers and the implications of making it legal.

One arena in which this topic is being taken especially seriously, and which demands a more immediate set of regulations, is Sport.

Why Cannabis Has Been Seen to Impact Society Negatively

The cannabinoid THC – or tetrahydrocannabinol – is the element in cannabis which causes psychoactive effects. There is little scientific evidence which proves anything beyond a temporary high: light headedness, a floaty feeling and an inflated sense of humour. Yet in societies across the world, cannabis is condemned. Why?

There are multiple reasons one may cite to cast cannabis in a poor light. The ‘high’ commonly glorified by its users can just as easily be described by outsiders as a groggy, lazy kind of motivational deterrent, and can induce anxiety in some. Cannabis has also lived most of its transactional existence in the seedy underbelly, and so, many people associate it with the broader issue of drug-dealing; this bears tagalong words such as ‘criminal’, ‘shameful’ or even ‘immoral’.

The most common method of consuming cannabis is by smoking it in a hand-rolled cigarette. This introduces two problems to society: first is the idea people receive when they see young people smoking – the automatic association of it with thuggery, or lower-class activity.
The second is that people tend towards mixing cannabis with tobacco, which is bad for both the smoker and the environment. However, it may easily be avoided through the use of paraphernalia such as bongs and pipes; these can be purchased online through reputable vendors such as Smoke Cartel.

How Cannabis Affects Athletes and The Athletic Environment

A research article from MDPI made the case that cannabis could be beneficial in extreme sports, due to its positive effects on anxiety and muscle relaxation. Most who advocate for cannabis within the athletic community state that it is not a performance-enhancing drug. However, if it is shown that a player has consumed cannabis in a drug test they may be fined, suspended or even cut from their team.
Organizations such as the NFL, NBA and UFC all classify cannabis as a prohibited substance. Ronda Rousey – former UFC champion – has spoken out about this prohibition, saying, ‘It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. And it has nothing to do with competition.’

Anyone who follows sports has favourite players, runners or fighters; fans worship them, and kids want to be them. The kind of image these athletes project, and how this affects the future generations of the sporting world, must also be considered an important factor.

Whether or Not Cannabis Should Be Banned in The Sporting World

Both sides to this argument make compelling points. While cannabis cannot be seen to enhance player performance to any effect, there are still masses of children who want to follow and copy these athletes however they can. The question of whether an individual athlete’s decisions should be restricted based on the influence of their image raises arguments of its own kind.

Legalization of cannabis is sweeping the world in waves, and whether or not the sporting industry will be submerged remains to be seen.

WADA prohibits cannabis in-competition, but sporting organizations still seriously punish their representatives based on drug-tests taken outside these times. For some – including top-tier athletes, cannabis is a regular part of life, and they do not allow it to affect their job performance in any way.

However, the nature of an athletic career and the spotlight under which it takes place incite special consideration. In a world so quickly accepting cannabis into its good graces, should the image of a cannabis user be softened? The legalization of cannabis implies the breaking down of a taboo well-established in the mindset of the reigning generation. It will be interesting to see how this affects the future of the sporting industry, and the attitude of society at large.