The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which protects sports integrity, renewed its position that cannabis should continue to be illegal in the world of competition. Previously taboo, cannabis is now becoming accepted across the globe. Concerns regarding its effects on other parts of life, including sports, grow as its availability and consumption increase. The complex debates resulted in WADA’s firm decision to maintain the prohibition against cannabis use in sports. Thus, according to the publication in Pubmed, we decided to prepare a review of the current situation.
Rising trends and athlete consumption
The background of this discussion is the increase in cannabis availability and its changing potency, particularly its delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (9-THC) content. Concerns about abuse and the development of use disorders have gained attention as its prevalence rises. The ever-increasing potency of the plant further complicates the landscape. This increase in both use and potency highlights the difficulty WADA will have in figuring out how to fit into the sports world.
Speculation exists on the level of cannabis use among elite sportsmen. Surprisingly, current studies imply that the percentage of athletes who use cannabis is comparable to the general population among people of their age. This information challenges beliefs that drug usage is more common among athletes.
Origins of the ban
The World Anti-Doping Code’s first introduction of the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods in 2004 marked the beginning of WADA’s banning of cannabis use in sports. This category has undergone changes over time to include synthetic cannabinoids, alter reporting thresholds, and add exemptions for particular cannabinoids, such cannabidiol. Stakeholder requests led WADA to conduct an extensive scientific, moral, and medical evaluation of cannabis and its components. That led to the latest revisit to the cannabis problem.
Any chemical must meet two of the three essential requirements listed by the World Anti-Doping Code to be included to the Prohibited Substances List. These are: improving athletic performance, harming the health of athletes, and violating the spirit of sport. These standards provide the framework for assessing cannabis’s role in the world of athletics.
Science, risks and safety
Over 2700 studies were part of the 2022 assessment by WADA. Each was subjected to rigorous scientific standards, including replication and peer-reviewed publication. The investigation, which aimed to identify any direct impacts of cannabis on performance, had conflicting results. While anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis may help athletes perform better by lowering the discomfort and anxiety that come with competition, no thorough research has been done to support this claim.
When assessing the potential health effects of cannabis use, a more unified position became visible. Cannabis has the ability to damage an athlete’s cognitive and psychomotor abilities and perhaps cause psychiatric symptoms, according to an asset of historical and modern research. The risk of cannabis use disorder and potential long-term effects are also increased by chronic, regular use. One significant element supporting the prohibition of cannabis in sports is the threat to athletes’ health.
Spirit of sport: upholding values
The third standard, “spirit of the sport,” is just as significant as the first two. This standard encapsulates four characteristics that highlight how cannabis conflicts with four universally held concepts of sportsmanship. Excellence in performance, morality and education, adherence to the law and the rule of law, and respect for one’s self and others are some of these qualities. These principles, which guide sports ethics, are in line with the prohibition of cannabis.
The decision by WADA to keep the cannabis prohibition in place reflects its unchanging dedication to fair play in sports. This conclusion occured after a rigorous scientific analysis. The research took into account health risks and adhered to the spirit of sport. The ban acknowledges the evolving cannabis market, but it also emphasises how crucial it is to protect athletes’ health, competition integrity, and the timeless principles of sportsmanship. Beyond the realm of athletics, WADA’s position on cannabis use speaks to broader cultural and ethical debates.