June 6, 2023 10:55 am ETEstimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Tara Davis-Woodhall, a 23-year-old U.S. long jumper, was stripped of the national indoor title she obtained in February after testing positive for THC. As announced by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), she has been suspended for a month.
The sample was collected on Feb. 17 at the 2023 USA Track and Field (USATF) indoor championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after she had won the long jump title with a record of 6.99 meters. Davis-Woodhall tested positive for THC, a psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, marijuana, and hashish. She had above the urinary Decision Limit of 180 ng/mL.
Davis-Woodhall began serving the provincial suspension on March 21 and has already completed it. However, because she had tested positive for THC, she lost her title. Also, all the results she obtained from competitions on and before Feb. 17 have been annulled. This includes points, prizes, and medals.
Cannabis Continues to Be Banned for Athletes
As released by USADA’s press, cannabis, marijuana, and hashish are banned under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules. The rules explain that the use of THC allows for a three-month penalty that can be reduced if an athlete can prove that its use has nothing to do with sports performance and it was used outside the competition.
As a result of this rule, and because Davis-Woodhall has completed a rehabilitation program because of her use of cannabis, her sanction was reduced to a month.
A statement read by USADA further explained that “WADA seeks input on each year’s updated version of the Prohibited List. USADA has advocated and will continue to advocate to WADA, the rule maker, to treat marijuana in a fairer and more effective way to identify true in-competition use.”
Cannabis is banned by WADA and USADA because of the health risk it poses to athletes and because it is believed to enhance performance, which defeats the spirit of fair play.
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USADA has provided a comprehensive guide on its website on illegal substances and their testing processes. This is to ensure that athletes and their support team members, like parents and coaches, are informed about the rules. There are also instructions on how to get approval to use essential medication and the potential risk of using supplements, performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.
Athletes Have Long Been Disqualified for Cannabis Use
A similar sanction happened to a high-profile American athlete in 2021. U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson secured a place in the Tokyo Olympics after she won the women’s 100 meters relay at the US Olympic track and field trials. However, she lost the spot after testing positive for violating the anti-doping rule. She was suspended for a month, but the USATF decided not to select her for the women’s relay team afterward.
Richardson explained that she had used marijuana just days earlier to cope with stress after hearing the triggering news about the death of her mother from a reporter. The USATF said in a statement that they were “incredibly sympathetic toward Sha’Carri Richardson’s extenuating circumstances and strongly applaud her accountability—and will offer her our continued support both on and off the track.” However, amending the USATF policies weeks before the Olympic games or only enforcing them under certain circumstances would be detrimental to their integrity.
Since the U.S. Olympic trials in 2021, when Sha’Carri Richardson was banned from the Olympics, there has been quite some debate on whether cannabis should be on the list of banned substances. There was an uproar caused in the United States as Richardson was suspended without any conclusive evidence to prove that cannabis is indeed a performance-enhancing drug.
Although marijuana is increasingly being decriminalized, available data reveals that it is not performance-enhancing with respect to speed, power, or strength. People have reported using it for inflammation, muscle soreness, and post-workout pain. Also, some endurance athletes have explained that using cannabis before their physical activity makes it less dull and more pleasant.
Many people have reported that marijuana helps them with mental health crises. In fact, anxiety, depression, pain, and sleep are the most common reasons why adults use cannabis medicinally. Given no proof that THC enhances performance and that it is legal in most U.S. states, it is believed that it shouldn’t be banned for athletes. Much more, using cannabis recreationally or to aid recovery shouldn’t be held against them in competitions.
WADA still has cannabis, marijuana, and hashish on its list of banned substances despite their legalization in many states. WADA’s Prohibited List Expert Advisory Groups have explained that the ban would be retained. It was stated that based on existing scientific evidence, marijuana meets the criteria to remain on the list.
USATF, on the other hand, is in favor of the reevaluation of the WADA rules as regards THC. Also, USADA advocates that WADA should “change its approach to marijuana so a positive test is not a violation unless it was intentionally used to enhance performance or endangers the health or safety of competitors.” Nonetheless, in 2020, Tara Davis-Woodhall came sixth in the long jump when she competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mary Ekundayo is a passionate cannabis writer and entrepreneur with a love for all things literary. When she's not creating content, you can find Mary lost in the pages of a captivating book or meditating to set the tone for her day.
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