Debate over marijuana use and athletic competition reignites


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Marijuana use and athletic competition are the controversial combination sparking debate across the country once again.

This follows the banning of an Olympic hopeful after she used marijuana at the track and field trials in Oregon last month.

So, what is right and what is wrong? Many say as times change, so should rules for athletes. What makes things more challenging is that different sports and different levels of sports have different standards.

In this June 19, 2021 photo, Sha’Carri Richardson celebrates after winning the first heat of the semis finals in women’s 100-meter runat the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. Richardson cannot run in the Olympic 100-meter race after testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana. Richardson, who won the 100 at Olympic trials in 10.86 seconds on June 19, told of her ban Friday, July 2 on the “Today Show.”(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

“She lost her opportunity to compete in the Olympics,” said UFC fighter Ryan Hall, speaking about Sha’Carri Richardson.

Richardson, a track sprinter, was suspended for a month after testing positive for the substance. Her absence from the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo reignited the debate over the use of marijuana by athletes.

“I think that’s insanity,” Hall said.

UFC fighters are weighing in, especially with recent developments in their sport. The Nevada Athletic Commission recently voted to remove the rule that would fine or suspend fighters for testing positive for marijuana.

Athletes who smoke pot say this is a step forward, but they will still stay clean for fights.

“I’m excited for after, but nothing changes there for me,” UFC fighter Sean O’Malley said. “I’ll probably continue to do two weeks out.”

Even those who do not smoke welcomed the news.

UFC Fighter Ryan Hall

“Are you injuring anyone and are you taking an unfair advantage? No? Then it’s not my concern what you’re up to,” Hall said.

So, what does the science say? A 2018 study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine shows, “There is no evidence for cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug.” But the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) sites a 2011 Sports Medicine paper published by WADA, which states, “Cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines.”

“I hope that everybody gets on the same page,” said Kortney Olson, founder and CEO of GRRRL Clothing.

Kortney Olson

Olson sponsors some UFC fighters. As a recovering addict, she says she would not drop athletes who use marijuana for health reasons.

“I would rather see people utilizing things like medical marijuana, as opposed to Xanax or Valium, which has a way higher addiction proposition,” she said.

Research into marijuana’s impact on athletic performance is ongoing, but there is plenty of evidence that shows cannabis helps with pain management and recovery.

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