Beats by Dre featured Sha'Carri Richardson in their adverts after her removal from the Olympics for testing postive. Photo credit: Beats by Dre advertisement

Outdated? Recent cannabis legalizations in conflict with Olympic doping rules

Despite the increasing number of cannabis legalizations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) keeps its stance when it comes to medical marijuana.  

There is a clash between the rising decriminalization of cannabis in countries with competition rules established by the IOC, the organization in charge of preserving the integrity of the Olympic games. The IOC administers its rules through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Model Criminal Law Provisions for the Prosecution of Competition Manipulation. In their guidelines, marijuana use falls under doping. 

“We must do everything we can to protect these millions of clean athletes around the world. For their sake and for the credibility of sports competition, they have to be protected from doping and corrupting influences,” said IOC president Thomas Bach. 

To the IOC, doping threatens the integrity of sports. Even more, the model suggests that doping has links to corruption, organized crime and money laundering. 

| Read: Tokyo officials get more aggressive in slowing down COVID-19

While the IOC has made its position clear, DISA Global Solutions reports that 18 states in the U.S. currently have legalized marijuana fully. Plus, in 26 states, the use of cannabis has been decriminalized or deemed legal for medicinal purposes. More than that, the use of medical marijuana is gaining momentum worldwide

In addition, the legalization of recreational marijuana and the usage of cannabis oil is ever increasing in Columbia, Canada and Chile according to the Grand View study. As well, Australia, Israel, the U.K. and Germany have commenced indigenous production of marijuana, showing potential for increased usage in the future. With the numbers rising in legalization, it has already shown up in this year’s games.

Cannabis Use and PTSD

The IOC’s stance was made apparent by their recent decision to suspend, American Sprinter and Texas native, Sha’Carri Richardson from the Olympic 100-meter race after testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana. Richardson admitted that she used the substance in order to cope with the recent loss of her mother. Richardson’s mother passed away a week before Olympic trials began. In a response to the IOC, Richardson simply stated, “I am human.”

Richardson, who was tested in Oregon after her Olympic trials run, said in a later interview with NBC that “there will never be a steroid attached to the name Sha’Carri Richardson. The charge and what the situation was was marijuana.”

Understandably, there is outrage on both sides of the aisle regarding the IOC’s stance on marijuana usage among athletes. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “WTF??? You’re telling me weed is somehow “performance enhancing” but being born and living most of your life as a dude and then competing against women isn’t? Total bullshit!!!” 

Conversely, President Biden stated, “Well, the rules are the rules…But I was really proud of the way [Richardson] responded.” 

Albeit, the Center for Anxiety Disorders reports that the sudden death of a loved one could trigger post traumatic stress disorder, deeming Richardson legally qualified to attain medicinal marijuana in her home state under House Bill 1535.

Studies have also shown potential benefits to ingesting marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic, an agency focusing on cancer patients, prescribes medical marijuana to patients in state’s where its use is legal. In their explanation of when a patient under their care typically qualifies for medical marijuana, occurs if they suffer from physical ailments such as seizures, multiple sclerosis and spasms, although laws vary from state to state.

Possible Regulation Reform in the IOC?

Recently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) wrote a letter to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) urging them to reconsider their decision to place Richardson under a one-month suspension. 

President of WADA, Witold Banka, responded to their letter by stating, “WADA is not a party to that particular matter and therefore simply is not in a position to vacate the results of Ms. Richardson’s test in Oregon.”

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s response to AOC and Raskin was stern, but promising. Although the USADA is not involved in the execution of voting against the rules of the IOC, the agency is required to enforce. Still, the agency ensured AOC and Raskin that it will continue to fight for change going forward.American Hurdler and Bobsledder Lolo Jones is seemingly optimistic about future IOC regulation reform. Recently, she tweeted, “It will be legal in competition next year. Watch. It will change because of @itskerrii.”

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