Professional Sports Committees Rethinking Marijuana Rules

Jul 18, 2013

Association of Boxing Commissions, Michael Phelps, Nicholas Delpopolo, Nick Lembo, Ross Rebagliati, steroids, UFC, WADA, World Anti-Doping Agency

In May, the organization that regulates the Olympics – the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – made headlines when it ruled to increase the threshold of permissible marijuana in an athlete’s system from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/ml.

The WADAwada_maputoballs based their decision on a few key factors, including changes in state marijuana laws, increasing public support for legalization, and the willingness of outed Olympians who were stripped of their medals or disqualified from competition (such as Michael Phelps, Nicholas Delpopolo, and Ross Rebagliati) to talk openly about their personal use. The goal of the new rules is to catch marijuana users who are competing under the influence, rather than those who smoked days or weeks earlier. In other words, the WADA is now treating marijuana like alcohol.

Following suit, the UFC changed their marijuana rules to match the WADA’s just three weeks later. In response to these changes, state athletic commissions have met to discuss raising the marijuana threshold for combat sports. “My personal feeling is that I would much rather focus on obvious performance-enhancing drug use like steroids and blood doping,” Nick Lembo of the Association of Boxing Commissions said. “If I was a trainer, I would much rather have my fighter fighting someone who took marijuana than someone who’s blood doping.”

Given that marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol and does not meet the definition of a performance-enhancing drug, these rule changes are a step in the right direction.