Cannabis at the Olympics

It was Canada’s own Ross Rebagliati who, quite literally, brought cannabis to the Olympic stage back in 1998. But this time around, it’s our neighbours from the USA who have made headlines around the world for their cannabis use.
Cannabis - including all natural and synthetic cannabinoids - is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List. However, cannabidiol (CBD) is not prohibited.

WADA, the Montreal-based agency focused on eliminating doping in sport, says there are three potential reasons a substance can be banned:

  1. it can enhance or potentially enhance performance;
  2. it represents an actual or potential health risk;
  3. or it violates the "spirit of sport."

Sha'Carri Richardson - Credit: Getty

What happened to Sha'Carri Richardson?

American Sha'Carri Richardson will not be on the USA Track and Field (USATF) roster for the Summer Olympics. The sprint sensation tested positive for THC after her 100 metre Olympic trial victory.

Richardson was released by USATF after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency - which operates under the World Anti-Doping Agency - announced that she tested positive. Richardson immediately apologized, stating that she turned to cannabis as a coping mechanism after the death of her mother.

"Honestly, I just want to apologize for my actions," said Richardson. "I know what I did. I know what I'm supposed to do, I'm allowed not to do, and I still made that decision. Not making any excuse, or looking for any empathy in my case."

According to Marijuana Moment, top US officials pushed for cannabis to be added to the list of banned substances in the late 1990s after Rebagliati’s Olympic gold. But twenty years later, and with amazing athletes like Sha'Carri Richardson watching from the sidelines instead of competing, White House officials and American sports regulators think it’s time to reconsider the punishment of athletes who consume cannabis.
Megan Rapinoe - Credit: Getty

So will there be CBD at the Summer Olympics?

While CBD is not prohibited by WADA, Japan does have very strict anti-cannabis laws. Athletes and CBD advocates like USA's Megan Rapinoe, whose sister founded the CBD company Mendi, will have to leave their CBD products at home.

In addition to Rapinoe, Mendi has a team of athlete ambassadors at the Summer Olympics. According to Forbes, their team includes USA softball outfielder Hayley McCleney, American hurdler Devon Allen, and four-time  Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion Sue Bird.

But is cannabis a performance enhancing drug?

According to experts, the answer is no.

In a review of 15 studies on cannabis and athletic performance, researchers found that in a few studies cannabis decreased performance, while in others, cannabis did nothing to improve the strength or speed of the athletes involved.

WADA maintains their position on cannabis for now, but perhaps we'll see Olympic athletes turning to CBD and THC sometime in the next four years.

Be in the know.

Interested in learning more about athletes and cannabis? Check out 10 Professional Athletes Who Use Cannabis.