Sports leagues and cannabis testing: North American survey

On June 28th, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was banned from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for one month for using marijuana, which effectively disqualified her from participating in the Olympics. The suspension of a gold medal competitor surprised many people and sparked a global debate about the use of marijuana by athletes, which should be resolved. Many people in the sports world quickly defended her, including the Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahoms The Kansas City Chiefs called the suspension “ridiculous.”

WADA has three criteria for eligibility for a drug to meet its prohibited substances list: (1) it poses actual or potential health risks to athletes; (2) has the potential to improve or improve athletic performance; (3) violates sportsmanship.

According to a 2011 papers A report written by WADA scientists shows that cannabis meets all three criteria. First, “Athletes who smoke marijuana or spice during competitions may endanger themselves and others due to increased risk-taking, slower reaction times, and poor executive function or decision-making ability.” Second, “according to current animal and human research and research on athletes According to interviews and on-site information, marijuana can improve the performance of certain athletes and sports disciplines.” Third, “the use of illegal drugs that are harmful to health and may have performance-enhancing properties does not match athletes’ role models for young people around the world.”

The scientists’ reasoning was strongly opposed, if not for further questions. Many people think that one of the reasons Richardson’s suspension is so shocking may be because marijuana is not generally considered a performance-enhancing drug. In addition, whether cannabis users are born to be bad role models for young people is very subjective and should not be a reason to disqualify other honest citizens from participating in the Olympic Games.

As more and more states pass laws to legalize marijuana, the major professional sports leagues in North America have Made a major change Their own cannabis policy. How these changes occurred is not consistent: some organizations have updated their collective bargaining agreements (CBA) with athletes, while others have just stopped enforcing their cannabis policies. We think this blog post will be a good opportunity to investigate the major North American sports associations and determine the current position of each association on cannabis testing policies (if any).

International Tennis Federation

Although marijuana and all forms of THC are prohibited from participating in the competition, the ITF has determined that the use of CBD is allowed.

Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball removed marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” list in 2019, and now the league no longer even tests marijuana.

Major League Soccer

The policy of Major League Soccer is just a statement that any substances banned by WADA are banned by the league, and FIFA has adopted the same policy.


NASCAR tests and disqualifies drivers who use marijuana.

National Basketball Association

The NBA’s policy still includes fines and suspensions for players who repeatedly smoke marijuana, but some progress has been made. Last year, when the league took the form of a bubble in Orlando, the league stopped random marijuana testing. Since then, the league has not resumed random testing. An NBA spokesperson mentioned that there is currently no plan to resume random marijuana testing, and hopes to focus drug testing on “performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse.”As President Adam Silver said, people are optimistic that the NBA will change its policies more permanently Mention This may lag behind the times in terms of its cannabis policy.

National Football League

The NFL has stopped suspending players who use marijuana. Any positive marijuana tests will be processed on a case-by-case basis, but only if they occur in the first two weeks of the training camp.

National Hockey League

NHL has taken quite Non-interference method About marijuana. As long as players play for the team in a state where marijuana is legally used, the NHL will not punish players who use marijuana. The NHL still tests its players, but only to identify players who need extra help from the league, not to punish players.

National Women’s Football League

NWSL has a marijuana policy that is more advanced in sports. The alliance allows the use of cannabinoids (such as CBD) for pain management. The alliance even allows sponsorship from the cannabis industry because Mendi, a CBD company founded by Megan Rapinoe’s sister Rachael, has worked with two NWSL teams.

PGA Tour

Although the CBD was removed from the USGA’s list of prohibited substances in 2018, golfers may still be suspended for the use of marijuana. This was the case in 2019, when two golfers were suspended after testing positive for marijuana. The suspension caused challenges to USGA’s cannabis policy.

Ultimate Fighting Championship

In January of this year, the UFC announced that it would no longer care about the THC positive test, as long as there is no reason to believe that fighters deliberately use it to improve their performance. All other natural cannabinoids have been removed from the UFC’s list of prohibited substances.

American Athletics

The policy that USA Track and Field adheres to comes from WADA, which has been explained above. Although WADA prohibits the use of THC used by Richardson, it does not prohibit the use of CBD. However, after Richardson was suspended, the American Athletics Association publicly stated that it should reassess the World Anti-Doping Agency’s policy on THC.

Women’s Basketball Association

The WNBA is still testing and penalizing the use of marijuana, according to its new CBA The agreement was reached in January 2020. The CBA has also developed a specific marijuana program that players can voluntarily use if they encounter problems with league policies.

World Boxing Association

The WBA does not have a general marijuana policy, because marijuana policy is usually left to the state sports commission.


Richardson’s disqualification provides an excellent opportunity for sports organizations to evaluate their cannabis policies. On Tuesday, Nevada Sports Commission The vote removed disciplinary fighters and boxers who used marijuana. Although the current sports world’s attention is focused on marijuana policy, Richardson’s suspension may also be an opportunity for states and the entire United States to re-evaluate marijuana laws. Now is the time to really study how and why cannabis users are punished inside and outside sports.

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