CBD may be a derivative of the cannabis plant, but are Olympic athletes allowed to use it without facing consequences?
Thanks to a recent decision from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the answer is clearly YES!
CBD products have become an attractive remedy for Olympians and professional athletes thanks to the myriad of health and wellness benefits it provides. More specifically, athletes are enjoying having a natural supplement they can take instead of NSAIDs and opioids, which are often over used and over prescribed.
Not only does CBD provide pain relief, but it also helps speed up physical recovery through inflammatory application and supports quality sleep and relaxes the nervous system without the potential side effects that can come with traditional pharmaceutical medications. It also does all this without getting users high, despite the fact that it can be derived from the cannabis plant.
CBD is a phenomenon in the health and wellness industry and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, and even neuroprotective properties. Now, thanks to WADA's decision to drop CBD from its list of banned substances, Olympic game athletes can include it in their daily training regime without fear of repercussions. Furthermore, the threshold tolerance has been increased for THC to ensure athletes using full spectrum products will not experience any failed testing.
What is WADA's Role in Controlling Banned Substances Among Athletes?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is responsible for monitoring the use of illegal substances among athletes. It was established as an initiative by the International Olympic Committee.
Athletes competing on professional and amateur levels are tested for traces of the banned substance, and if any are detected, it often leads to disqualification, stripping of medals and even a lifelong ban from their sport.
For a long time, CBD has been on WADA's list of banned substances simply because it is a compound derived from a species of the cannabis plant. Even though CBD has no psychoactive effects that its THC counterpart does, CBD is often lumped together with it and therefore has long had a stigma attached to it.
But Olympic athletes have little to worry about because WADA has officially removed CBD from its list of controlled substances thanks to continued research into the health benefits of CBD and its lack of mind-altering effects. That means athletes are free to use CBD without being vulnerable to repercussions and risking their careers.
That said, WADA still warns athletes who choose to consume CBD products that they could inadvertently be consuming THC if they're not careful.
While CBD derived from hemp is generally void of THC, CBD that is extracted from marijuana could be laden with it. If that's the case, Olympic athletes could fail their drug tests if THC is detected in their system, since THC is still on the WADA's list of banned substances.
Increasing Number of Professional Athletes Using CBD
Many professional athletes have already publicly claimed to use CBD as part of their training or recovery regimen.
UFC star Nate Diaz, for one, has spoken openly about how CBD has become an important part of his regimen and touts its ability to help him both before and after his fights, and after bouts of training. The fighter claims that CBD helps with healing, pain, and inflammation, helping to get him back in the ring sooner.
Former NFL player Eugene Monroe has also both been known for his support of the use of CBD among athletes. Monroe claims that he has been suffering from pain long after retiring and that relying on traditional painkillers was leading him down a dangerous path. But thanks to CBD, he's able to function with minimal pain and discomfort.
What About Medical Marijuana?
Although WADA has banned marijuana and its THC from use among Olympic athletes, there may be an exception to the rule when it comes to medical cannabis. WADA - as well as the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) - permits athletes to apply for what's known as "therapeutic use exemptions" (TUEs), which allow them to use certain medications that are still listed under the agency's banned substance list.
If the athlete's physician recommends that they make use of medical cannabis to be included in their treatment regimen, athletes may not necessarily be met with the same consequences as those without such exemptions and doctor recommendations.
Although WADA may allow such exemptions, the agency will only permit it for a very limited number of conditions, noting that marijuana itself is still not approved.
CBD has a lot to offer, and like anyone else, athletes stand to benefit a great deal from its use. Thanks to WADA's recent ruling on the state of CBD as it pertains to Olympic competition, athletes competing on this platform can take advantage of this miraculous cannabinoid without jeopardizing their athletic career. We'll likely see more and more athletes vocalizing their support of CBD in the future.
Kai Pattison, M.S.
Athlete Relations x Physiologist
Kai Pattison was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Kai graduated with a Master’s degree in clinical physiology from Point Loma Nazarene University. He is very passionate about human physiology and the applications in sport performance, recovery and clinical diagnostics. Kai has specialized in cardiopulmonary diagnostics, exercise induced energy expenditure and metabolism. Kai has also gained extensive research experience at UCSD on Parkinson’s disease. He enjoys educating and informing people on the importance of exercise to reduce risk of multiple inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. His passion for alternative medicine enables him to strive when promoting health and wellness.