Ahhhhh, the Olympics. An event we pretend to give a shit about every few years under the guise of national pride. The Blazer mostly likes to tune in for the ripe scandals leading up to an otherwise uncompelling broadcast. Massive bribes, corrupt judging, doping scandals, and even the occasional knee-capping of a fellow competitor (too soon?). Granted, all the athletes are next-level, generational talents with banging bodies, so the occasional tune-in isn't completely for nothing.
That being said, cannabis and professional sports have been at odds with one another for many years, so let's take the most recent fuck-up by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the organization responsible for substance abuse for American Olympic athletes, to highlight yet another hilariously tragic approach to cannabis in the United States.
But first, a quick history on the Blazer's all-time favorite snowboarder…
Well, have you ever heard of Ross Rebagliati? He was a Canadian Olympic snowboarder who won the gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, only to get his medal stripped after testing positive for cannabis. Ross Rebagliati was even jailed after "bringing a controlled substance" into Japan. However, after 36 hours, based on an appeal by the Canadian Olympic Association, Ross was then GIVEN HIS MEDAL BACK because marijuana was not on the IOC's list of banned substances for Olympic athletes then. The IOC added cannabis to the banned list a few months later, sometimes referred to as the "Ross Rebagliati Rule."
At least Ross was Canadian, as they Canucks have always been progressive about their approach to cannabis. They stood by Ross, appealed the decision, and got him his medal. The United States put Ross on the No Fly List a few years later, following September 11, effectively ending his snowboarding career because he was ineligible to compete at the big money events like the Xgames.
The latest atrocity on a real Olympic hero
The most recent conversation about this was with Sha'Carri Richardson. The 21-year-old Olympic athlete won her 100-meter dash in the 2021 Tokyo pre-Olympics only to be disqualified. No disrespect to Jennifer Lawrence, but Sha'Carri is the real girl on fire who blazed to the Olympics by embarrassing her competition with this dominating performance
It turns out Sha'Carri rolled up a little joint in Oregon, a legal state for cannabis, and was consequently banned by the USADA for one month leading up to the Tokyo Olympics. Furthermore, the news later revealed that her cannabis use followed the death of her biological mother. To the Blazer, this feels like a colossal fuck you to Sha'Carri. A one-month ban? Come on, really? Every doctor would agree that smoking and cardio do not go well together and certainly can't help your lungs function, particularly at the highest levels of sport where every hundredth of a second decides fame and fortune from the faceless and forgotten. It makes us sick how unfair and ridiculous this seems. Sha'Carri handled it with the utmost class and is our new favorite athlete. Well done by her.
WADA Solution: Take more pills! Drink more booze!
The current research does not come to any conclusion that marijuana is performance-enhancing. Actually, most of the studies around THC and enhanced performance are inconclusive or suggest that marijuana has a negative effect on sports activities. No shocker here.
WADA likes to cite one paper from 2011 that states: "cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines" because it assists with performance "under pressure" and alleviates stress. So, by WADA logic, meditation and a slow-breathing routine that relaxes us could be performance-enhancing. It just seems fucking crazy to us. Even worse, but kind of hilarious, you want to know what WADA does not ban: Anxiety Medication & Antidepressants. It seems like a well-thought-out, equitable policy by a bunch of bureaucratic assholes.
In more recent research, a 2017 systematic review of the only 15 published studies that have investigated the effects of THC and exercise, "Of these studies, none showed any improvement in aerobic performance" (2). Systematic reviews look at the current study results altogether, and of the 15 available in 2017, there was NO PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT.
WADA also says that cannabis should be banned because it could be "harmful to the athlete," yet Olympians can get sloshed and have sex at major Olympic parties. Alcohol is more harmful in terms of disease and mortality rate, so why is alcohol not banned? Olympic athletes are also allowed to smoke, no filter cigarettes, and be addicted to nicotine during their training. The "Harmful to the athlete" clause seems a bit subjective, don't you think?
Until next time. Keep blazing and tell us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Bilefsky, D. (2018, November 6). Disgraced at Olympics Over Marijuana, Canadian Snowboarder Hopes to Ride to Cannabis Success. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/02/world/canada/canada-pot-snowboarder-olympics.html
2. Kennedy. (2017). Cannabis: exercise performance and sport. A systematic review. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20(9), 825–829. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2017.03.012
3. Kennedy. (2022). Cannabis, cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol in sport: An overview. Internal Medicine Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/imj.15724
4. Huestis, Mazzoni, I., & Rabin, O. (2012). Cannabis in Sport. Sports Medicine (Auckland), 41(11), 949–966. https://doi.org/10.2165/11591430-000000000-00000
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