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Athletes and Cannabis

Article by Jackson Thompson at Insider

Cannabis use among athletes has sparked debate on health issues and social values

Whether athletes should be allowed to use cannabis has been an ongoing debate in sports for decades.

In recent years, the NFL has reduced the punishment for players who test positive for cannabis, and the NBA has stopped testing for the drug altogether.

Still, there are instances in which athletes faced harsh consequences for using the drug.

This summer, Team USA Olympic sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was banned from competing in the Tokyo Olympics for testing positive for marijuana after the US trials.

Richardson was banned on the basis that marijuana could be considered a "performing-enhancing drug." Experts say the science is blurry, as Insider's Gabby Landsverk previously reported. Cannabis does not offer the same muscle-related or mental advantages that anabolic steroids, amphetamines, or Adderall can give athletes, nor is there definitive evidence it slows them down, Landsverk reported.

Some experts believe cannabis, in the form of CBD, could help relieve pain and promote muscle recovery. CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has been exempted from the doping ban since 2019.

There is no real research to confirm the benefits of CBD in physical recovery. However, many researchers believe that given the the number of endocannabinoids in the body — particularly in the skin — it makes sense that CBD, which binds to endocannabinoids, could be a helpful agent in muscle recovery.

Some athletes have been open about using the drug, while others have only been caught with it

A number of high-profile athletes have said cannabis helped in their own wellness routines.

The NFL has also invested $1 million into researching CBD as a holistic painkiller to replace other drugs like Toradol, a prescription painkiller that is in the same family as ibuprofen but stronger. (Last year, the NFL Players Association asked the league to limit prescribing Toradol to injured players, saying it carries a risk of "major bleeding.")

We compiled a list of athletes who have publicly stated that they use cannabis or have invested their own money in companies that produce and sell the drug for recreational or medicinal use.

This list omits athletes who have simply been caught using the drug, whether through a league drug test or by law enforcement.


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