Sports have always been more than playing games. It is a way of putting athletes’ skills, teamwork, and fair play to test. This is perhaps where the concept of sportsmanship came from. In the spirit of fair play, sports organizations have created rules against taking performance-enhancing drugs, also known as doping.
Doping has led to the disgrace of many athletes throughout the years including some of the most prominent ones such as Lance Armstrong in Cycling and Ben Johnson in Track and Field. In some cases, marijuana is involved in doping scandals such as with Michael Phelps in Swimming and Keith Piper in Cricket, who were both banned from their respective sports for a few months.
What is Considered Doping?
Performance-enhancing drugs are banned from professional sports. Over the years, the list of banned substances has changed according to new developments. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) acknowledged that the Anti-Doping Code should never be stagnant. Instead, it should adjust depending on experiences gained and after extensive consultation with experts.
Currently, some examples of prohibited substances at all times include anabolic agents, peptide hormones and growth factors, beta-2 agonists, hormone and metabolic modulators, and diuretics and masking agents. During competitions, stimulants, narcotics, glucocorticoids, and certain cannabinoids are prohibited, while particular sports specifically prohibit beta-blockers.
As mentioned, the use of these substances is banned from such events as they pose health risks for athletes. Consuming these substances have long-lasting and harmful side-effects in various organ systems of the body. They usually affect the cardiovascular system with irregular heart rhythm, elevated blood pressure, and heart attack. The central nervous and respiratory systems are also affected, as well as hormonal productions.
Moreover, they deprive sportspeople of having equal opportunities in their respective fields and the fair play in the spirit of sports. From the name “performance-enhancing drugs,” these substances are used to increase the player’s capability to perform in the sport. This can be in the form of increased strength, endurance, and other similar characteristics or skills, which raise an ethical question.
Lastly, the use of these drugs also taints the image of sports as a drug-free arena. Sports authorities consider doping as being against another important aspect in the spirit of sports, which is excellence. For organizations, athletes should be models for their followers, especially the youth. Again, the use of such drugs is dishonest and sets a bad example.
Current Guidelines for Cannabis in Sports
Looking at some prohibited substances in sports, it is easy to see that marijuana and some cannabinoids are part of this list. While they are prohibited only while within the competition period, natural and synthetic cannabinoids are banned. This includes those extracted from hashish and marijuana, as well as synthetic ones that mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Keep in mind that the main reason why the WADA banned cannabinoids from competitions is because of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Regardless, almost all cannabinoids or chemical compounds in the cannabis plant are banned.
The good news is cannabidiol is listed as an exception. This could be because this particular cannabinoid is known for its medicinal properties. In fact, researchers suggest that even THC and other cannabinoids have medicinal value.
If this is so, why does WADA prohibit the use of cannabis and cannabinoids while in-competition? The simple answer to this is because it satisfies two out of three criteria outlined by WADA.
There are three criteria that could qualify a substance as a doping drug. Above, we mentioned that the negative health effects, the potential for performance enhancement, and violation of the spirit of sport can include the substance in WADA’s list. According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a substance must meet two of three criteria and cannabis does.
A WADA paper in Sports Medicine explained this saying, “Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk-taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.” To be fair, these are definitely effects of marijuana strains that are high in THC.
Similarly, cannabis is banned because of its performance-enhancing effects. Many studies show that THC and CBD both provide enhancements in various faculties of the consumer. THC is known to improve creative thinking but has a sedating effect. Both of these effects show that this compound can both enhance an athlete’s performance while impeding some of their faculties.
Meanwhile, cannabidiol is generally known not for being a harmful substance, but as a medicinal one. In fact, some people have started incorporating this substance in their daily routine. Its known effects include enhanced mood, improved cognitive function, improved critical and creative thinking, and a boost in energy.
So, Can Athletes Consume Cannabis?
The answer is yes, when they are out of the competition. Based on the WADA website, cannabis and cannabinoids are listed under substances prohibited in-competition. So, they can consume this as long as they are not without the competition period. Just remember that responsible consumption is still important.
With the exception of cannabidiol in the list, it is easy to see that it can be consumed at all times. But as with cannabis and other cannabinoids, ingesting CBD should be done responsibly. After all, too much of something, even if it is considered good.
Why is CBD Allowed in Sports?
If you are wondering why cannabidiol is allowed for athletes, the most important thing you should know is it first and foremost considered a medicinal substance. It has a lot of potentials in medicine, which makes it a great option for athletes. To know more about why CBD is allowed, here are some key points.
It does not get athletes high
The public stereotypes cannabis consumers as the stoner type, or those who are always high and out of it. While frequent consumption of THC can result in this image, intaking cannabidiol is far from this perception. THC is known to provide a sedative and euphoric effect, while CBD is known to offer a brain high.
As mentioned, some of cannabidiol’s effects reside in the mind including cognitive functions, energy boost, and mood enhancement. This can make individuals more productive, critical, and creative with their everyday tasks.
It is a pain killer
Another reason that CBD is allowed in sports is its potential to relieve pain. The main point of using cannabidiol to treat pain in patients is because it is non-addicting. This is because the human body itself has a system dedicated to absorbing and processing cannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system is known to produce and process endocannabinoids and external cannabinoids.
The thing is, this system has receptors in other systems including the nervous, digestive, and immune system. With regard to pain, the body has a cannabinoid receptor in its pain and pleasure center. When cannabidiol reaches this receptor, it is able to relieve pain in a non-addictive way.
In comparison, other traditional substances used for pain such as opioids can cause dependency. This is because these substances work by activating opioid receptors on nerve cells that naturally-occurring opioids do not. They react not only on the surface of the cells but also its insides, and remain activated for a few minutes. Studies also show that these have different waves of activity, which can cause unwanted effects.
Given this, CBD is a great alternative, especially for athletes who suffer from injuries. Plus, there are studies that show cannabidiol can alleviate drug cravings in patients addicted to prescription opioids.
It does not have the potential for misuse or dependence
Let’s take another look at the criteria that can qualify substances for the WADA list. One of the most important points is if causes the violation of the spirit of sport. This means that athletes should engage in fair play and should exhibit exemplary character. To many, becoming addicted to a substance is short of showing exemplary character.
It has tons of benefits
Aside from being a great mind booster and pain reliever, CBD is also known to have other medicinal benefits. It is prescribed to individuals who are having sleeping problems. One thing you should know about CBD is it works like a two-way road. Individuals who suffer from insomnia can take cannabidiol to help them fall asleep and have a restful slumber, while those who have problems with low energy can use it to increase their energy.
The same is true with other applications. For example, using CBD topicals for treating skin conditions. This cannabinoid can help hydrate the skin if dry, but it can also help regulate sebum production of too oily.
It can be consumed in different ways
One stigma attached to cannabinoids is its manner of consumption. Smoking marijuana means that you can intake not only CBD but also THC and other cannabinoids. The good thing is there is a whole industry surrounding cannabidiol, which extracts and processes pure spectrum CBD.
In fact, many companies have now developed such purely cannabidiol products. Consumers can intake CBD by ingesting soft gels, capsules, lotions, oils, and other similar forms.
How to Responsibly Use CBD
As athletes are supposed to be exemplars, they should be responsible for any substances they decide to consume. With CBD, here are some of the best tips on how to consume it responsible.
If you are new to this cannabinoid, then you should start slow. Keep in mind that your body is not yet accustomed to this substance yet and can react differently. So, you need to take a bit at a time instead of taking in a big dose. This will help you assess the effects of this cannabinoid and decide to increase the dose if needed.
Plus, you should know that ingesting cannabinoids can take time to take effect. You may not feel the effects within a few minutes, but you will feel it in the next hours. Do not be tempted to increase your dose.
The first thing you should keep in mind is to keep it moderate. Even legal items such as cigarettes and alcohol have label warnings telling consumers to consume moderately. The same applies to CBD.
When excessively consumed, this substance can result in fatigue, weight changes, appetite changes, and diarrhea. All these are not long-term but may affect your experience. Moreover, it can interfere with your daily routine.
The good thing is that there is no such thing as CBD overdose. In fact, there is no such thing as CBD tolerance. You can consume it daily and you will not need to consume more just to experience the effect you are looking for. Studies even show that as consumers ingest CBD in a regular manner, the amount they need to achieve their desired effect can decrease.
Refrain from Using it When Taking Drug Tests
The most important concern for athletes is if they will test positive for THC when consuming CBD. Ideally, pure CBD products will not result in positive tests. This is because, well, they are purely CBD.
However, keep in mind that most CBD products can contain less than 0.3% of THC, which is the federal threshold. If this small amount can be detected, then your test results will be positive. So, it is wiser to refrain from consuming it if you are scheduled for a drug test.
Use Only as an Aid
Finally, you want to make sure that you use CBD only as an aid and not as a complete replacement for your physician-prescribed treatment. While it can be a healthy alternative, it cannot also be a replacement for nutritional intake. This is important for athletes because aside from practice and skills, diet is a vital part of their training.
Plus, you want to make sure that how you assess your performance is not solely based on what you take in. This way, you can retain self-confidence in your skills even without consuming this substance.
The Bottom Line
Cannabis and cannabinoids may not be allowed during competitions, but CBD definitely is. With responsible consumption and knowledge of its effects, you can use this substance to your advantage in and out of competitions.