SHA’CARRI RICHARDSON BANNED FROM OLYMPICS: DOES CANNABIS IMPROVE ATHLETES PERFORMANCE?

By Contributing Author Stella Kirobi for Zaftyg Magazine

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has banned Sha’Carri Richardson, a popular American sprinter, from the 2021 Olympics. Richardson remains suspended for 30 days as of June 28th, 2021, after failing a marijuana drug test. This means that the track star will not participate in the coming women’s 100-m race in the Tokyo Olympics, starting July 23rd, 2021. 

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These events are frustrating because the suspension ends towards the beginning of the Olympics. Additionally, the infringement happened in Oregon, a state where the recreational use of marijuana among adults is considered legal. 

SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON BANNED FROM OLYMPICS: DOES CANNABIS IMPROVE ATHLETES PERFORMANCE?

Richardson had initially qualified for the Tokyo Olympics at the US Olympic trials. In an exclusive interview, she agreed to have consumed a marijuana-infused substance soon after learning of her biological mother’s death from a reporter. “I want to take responsibility for my actions. I know what I did and what I’m not allowed to do,” The 21-year old commented in regards to the sanction.

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Though still classified in WADA’s list of illegal substances, marijuana does not enhance an athlete’s performance. Studies have revealed that marijuana is not directly associated with performance improvement. But instead, it can cause impaired coordination when misused and potentially deteriorate an athlete’s performance. 

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According to one addiction doctor Scott E. Hadland, Richardson and other professional athletes using cannabis should legally participate in sports. He suggests that drug testing athletes for cannabis is outdated, and the US Olympic committee should make efforts towards removing marijuana from WADA’s list of banned substances. Hadland further argues that marijuana is not a performance-enhancer, it does not put an athlete’s health at risk, and it doesn’t violate the spirit of sport.

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Cannabis Is Not A Performance Enhancer, And It Does Not Slow Athletes Down Either

Richardson’s case has fueled debates against banning athletes who consume marijuana. WADA rightfully bans anabolic steroids and stimulants because they increase both energy and athletes’ performance. However, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), popularly referred to as marijuana, does not boost aerobic exercise. Unlike steroids, it has little to no adverse effects, and it won’t slow down an athlete when consumed appropriately. 

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Marijuana’s presence on the list of banned substances has been a controversial topic for decades now. Until today, no research has proven cannabis as an athlete’s performance enhancer. In fact, a 2017 review of cannabis on exercise performance concluded that THC does not improve athletic strength or performance. As such, Richardson’s banning only reveals a pressing need for reevaluation in the present anti-doping rules.

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The US Will Definitely Legalize Marijuana In The Future

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in countries like Canada and Mexico. Evidently, these legal countries are experiencing tremendous growth rates in their local and national economies. That said, it is expected that the United States will federally legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the future. Should this happen, the US is projected to experience a significant $128 billion in tax revenues and generate millions of new jobs by 2025.

Legalizing marijuana fully will turn around the US economy on a major level. Better still, it will provide legal access to an all-natural plant medicine for patients and people looking to relieve stress and anxiety. Experts believe that the United States economy will explode from this expected marijuana regime change.

The Bottom Line

Extensive research into the long-term impacts of cannabis on athletes is still needed. However, there is no direct evidence that marijuana can enhance or slow down an athlete’s performance. In a world where cannabis legalization is becoming mainstream, experts believe it’s ridiculous to argue that an athlete should be kicked out for using cannabis to cope with grief or alleviate stress. And while we look forward to the US federally legalizing marijuana use, we can only hope that WADA will relax its rules and marijuana testing protocols.

SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON BANNED FROM OLYMPICS DOES CANNABIS IMPROVE ATHLETES PERFORMANCE
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