Canadian student athletes competing on regional turf can now enjoy cannabis without fear of punishment from the country’s anti-doping organization.
On Thursday, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport announced changes to how cannabis anti-doping rules are applied for student-athletes competing only in U SPORTS or Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association events.
While weed remains a prohibited substance in competition under the World Anti-Doping Agency, the CCES will no longer analyze samples for cannabinoids.
In recent years, increasing numbers of professional athletes have spoken publicly about their own weed use. Both the NBA and the MLB no longer test for cannabis — testing positive in the NFL no longer results in suspension.
Under the World Anti-Doping Code, anti-doping organizations can choose to analyze from less than the full list of prohibited substances for athletes who don’t compete at national or international levels. In a statement, the CCES said that WADA is aware the Canadian organization has chosen to remove cannabis for student athletes who compete below the national level.
The CCES clarified that cannabis testing will still apply to student athletes who are:
- Also included in their sport’s national athlete pool.
- Competing in a non-U SPORTS or non-Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association event. For example, another organization’s national championship.
- Attending an international event where the CCES does not have jurisdiction. For example, FISU — an International University Sports Federation event — or World Championship.
“Historically, cannabis cases in U SPORTS and CCAA have been unrelated to performance enhancement — rather, they are inadvertent violations caused by the fact that cannabis is only prohibited in-competition and can take 30 days to clear from a human body,” the CCES said in the statement. “As a result, the CCES was motivated to use the flexibility allowed within the code to develop the new protocol for student-athletes who meet the criteria.”
The CCES says it’s long advocated for the removal of cannabis from the WADA Prohibited List, and the legalization of cannabis in Canada reflects a shifting societal view of how to manage cannabis education and harm reduction. Student athletes will remain subject to conduct and sport-related codes respective to their institutions and sporting associations.
Concurrent to Canada’s legalization of recreational cannabis in October 2018, Olympic gold-medalist Ross Rebagliati also called upon WADA to lift the ban on weed. At the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the Canadian athlete won the first ever gold medal awarded to a snowboarder, only to have it revoked when 17.8 billionths of a gram of THC was found in a test — an amount he attributed to second-hand inhalation at parties. The medal was returned after a successful appeal that cannabis wasn’t then on the list of banned substances.
The CCES is an independent, national, not-for profit organization with a responsibility to administer the Canadian Anti-Doping Program.
Top image: Students competing at the 2015 PING CCAA Golf National Championship in Chilliwack, B.C. These students would still be tested for cannabis because they’re playing at the national level. Photo by University of the Fraser Valley via Wikimedia Commons