Sha’Carri Richardson (USA) grabbed US headlines headlines during the last couple of weeks. First, because she won their National Trials. Her time of 10.86 was not spectacular but she is the 2nd best of the world this year with her 10.72 from April, behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price’s (JAM) 10.63 and the US media hoped she could fight for gold.
“Hoped”, because a few days later she tested positive for cannabis, triggering a 30-day suspension that will prevent her from competing at the Olympic Games. Richardson accepted her responsibility and apologized for “letting down” communities she represents.
Richardson said she consumed marihuana in order to cope with her mother’s mother one week prior. Mental health is more important than sport and she decided to prioritize it even when knowing the rules. Not everyone might agree with her choice but she is the one that is missing the chance of a lifetime.
The general public might be questioning why cannabis is still a banned substance, when it does not give you a physical advantage during a competition. However, the justification from WADA is that it is a performance enhancing drug.
Cannabis has been repeatedly shown(SciencePub) to have anxiolytic properties. This means that substances present in cannabis, such as CBD, could help a sportsperson deal with the inherent stress and anxiety that high-level competition presents. This would give them an edge over others.
There are two main reasons why substances like cannabis -even at a lower, non-intoxicating dose- should not change their status soon: accessibility and fairness.
Unfortunately great part of the world is still continuing to pursue a failed “War on Drugs” that has brought death and cycles of violence all around of the world. Cannabis still remains illegal in the majority of countries.
Sportspeople are not responsible for that but it would be unfair to allow cannabis to be used insofar as it is not allowed everywhere. Possession is literally punishable by death in some countries! This would give some people unfair advantages just because their countries have been more intelligent and progressive.
Second, one of the reasons why anxiolytic substances are banned in general is because they can lead to abuse. Recreational use of anxiolytics is a widespread cause of death. Using it for sport -which is recreation in the end- would open the doors for abuse of these substances where the long-term use might lead to addiction.
Smoking a joint should not be a big deal. Nor should be taking medicine for a cold. But taking a medicine can lead to being suspended or banned unless there is a clear medical justification and permission is granted.
That should probably be where cannabis should be categorized in the future…When the world progresses and cannabis is widely accessible. Unfortunately that future doesn’t seem near.