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Saturday, June 15, 2024

NCAA Contemplates Removing Cannabis from Banned Substances List


The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) has recommended removing cannabis from the list of prohibited substances as it does not provide a performance-enhancing effect for athletes. The panel’s decision, announced on June 14, could potentially put an end to the current ban on cannabis use by student-athletes, who are presently subjected to regular screenings for the presence of banned substances.

It is important to note that the CSMAS recommendation is not immediately in effect and requires approval from the governing bodies of the NCAA’s three divisions. These governing bodies are expected to review and consider the proposal during the summer months.

In addition to removing cannabis from the banned substances list, the CSMAS also suggests eliminating cannabis testing from the NCAA’s drug testing protocols. The committee determined that drug testing should focus on substances that offer an unfair advantage in enhancing performance, and cannabis does not fall under this category. The recommendation was largely influenced by the December 2022 Summit on Cannabinoids in College Athletics, according to the NCAA.

The CSMAS further proposed that the NCAA adopt a harm reduction-based cannabis policy, similar to its approach to alcohol use among athletes. The committee believes that cannabis testing should be conducted at the institutional level to support efforts in identifying problematic use on campuses. Additionally, it recommends educating student-athletes on the potential risks associated with contemporary cannabis use and developing strategies to minimize harm for individuals who choose to use cannabis.

Alongside the policy and testing changes, the CSMAS also expressed support for the creation of a comprehensive communication and education campaign that provides guidance to membership regarding cannabis, as stated in the NCAA’s official statement.

Rethinking Cannabis and Sports

This recent recommendation by the CSMAS follows a previous policy update by the NCAA that addressed cannabis use by student-athletes. In February 2022, the NCAA raised the threshold for THC metabolites in athlete drug screenings from 35 to 150 nanograms per milliliter, aligning it with regulations set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

According to Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, reevaluating the organization’s approach to cannabis testing and management is reflective of the feedback received from its members. The NCAA aims to better support and educate student-athletes in a society where public health and cultural views on cannabis use are rapidly evolving. Hainline emphasized that while marijuana is not considered a performance-enhancing substance, it is crucial for member schools to engage student-athletes in substance use prevention and provide appropriate support and management.

WADA spokesman Jon Fitzgerald mentioned that WADA consults with all stakeholders regarding substances or methods that may be added or removed from their list. The United States has consistently advocated for keeping cannabis on the list.

The NCAA’s efforts to reform marijuana policies align with research indicating that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug. In 2011, two WADA scientists and an adviser published a paper often cited as supporting the view that marijuana enhances performance. Nonetheless, experts question the findings of this paper, claiming the evidence is weak. Margaret Haney, a neurobiology professor at Columbia University and director of the Cannabis Research Laboratory, notes that cannabis can reduce reaction time and negatively affect athletes’ performance.

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018 revealed that no direct evidence suggests cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug for athletes. The authors emphasized that while cannabis use may be prevalent among certain high-risk sports athletes, there is no proof of its performance-enhancing effects.

Another study published in 2020 concluded that cannabis does not enhance sports performance as popular belief suggests. In fact, the study advises avoiding cannabis consumption before exercise to maximize athletic performance.

The increasing legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes worldwide has sparked interest in exploring the wellness benefits of cannabis. Consequently, policies banning cannabis use by athletes are being reconsidered, particularly since some athletes utilize the drug to aid recovery after workouts. The debate gained attention in 2021 when leading sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for cannabis during a qualifying event and was consequently denied a spot on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team.

FAQs

1. Why is the NCAA considering removing cannabis from the banned substances list?

The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) has recommended removing cannabis from the list of prohibited substances. This decision was made due to the finding that cannabis does not enhance athletic performance.

2. When will the NCAA’s decision to remove cannabis from the banned substances list take effect?

The recommendation from the CSMAS is subject to approval by the governing bodies of the NCAA’s three divisions. It will be reviewed and considered during the summer months.

3. What changes are being proposed by the CSMAS in relation to cannabis testing?

The CSMAS has recommended that the NCAA remove cannabis from its drug testing protocols. Testing would be reserved for performance-enhancing drugs that provide an unfair advantage. The committee suggests that cannabis testing should be conducted at the institutional level to support campus efforts in identifying problematic use.

4. What approach does the CSMAS recommend for managing cannabis use among student-athletes?

The CSMAS proposes adopting a harm reduction-based cannabis policy, similar to the NCAA’s approach to alcohol use by athletes. The committee suggests educating student-athletes on the potential risks of cannabis use and developing strategies to minimize harm for those who choose to use cannabis.

5. How does the NCAA’s reevaluation of cannabis testing and management align with existing research?

Research has consistently shown that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug for athletes. Several studies have found no direct evidence of cannabis enhancing sports performance. Experts argue against the notion that cannabis improves athletic performance, citing the drug’s potential negative effects on reaction time and overall performance.

6. What impact has the increasing legalization of cannabis had on the reconsideration of policies banning cannabis use by athletes?

The legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in various jurisdictions has prompted a reevaluation of policies banning cannabis use by athletes. Some athletes use cannabis to aid in post-workout recovery, leading to a reassessment of the drug’s impact on athletic performance.

7. Why did the case of Sha’Carri Richardson attract attention in relation to cannabis use by athletes?

Sha’Carri Richardson, a prominent sprinter, tested positive for cannabis during a qualifying event, which led to her exclusion from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team. This case sparked a debate about the fairness of policies that ban cannabis use by athletes.

8. How does the NCAA’s chief medical officer emphasize the importance of engaging student-athletes regarding substance use?

The NCAA’s chief medical officer, Brian Hainline, stresses that while marijuana is not considered a performance-enhancing substance, it is crucial for member schools to provide student-athletes with substance use prevention education and appropriate support and management.

9. How does the CSMAS recommend educating student-athletes about cannabis?

The CSMAS recommends that colleges educate student-athletes on the potential risks associated with contemporary cannabis use. The committee also suggests providing information on strategies to minimize harm for individuals who choose to use cannabis.

10. What additional support does the CSMAS propose in relation to the NCAA’s cannabis policy?

In addition to policy and testing changes, the CSMAS expresses support for the development of a comprehensive communication and education campaign that provides guidance to NCAA members regarding cannabis use.

Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers is an accomplished writer and cannabis enthusiast. With a Ph.D. in Botany and years of experience as a researcher, she brings a scientific perspective to her captivating articles on cannabis news, recipes, and the fascinating world of psychedelics.

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