Nicholas Delpopolo, a Yugoslav-born American judo competitor in the London Olympics, has been disqualified on account of a positive drug test. This is the fifth positive drug test reported by the IOC for this year’s testing program but the first to turn up positive during the competition itself. The 23-year-old tested positive for marijuana metabolites, substances that would appear in the blood for several weeks after consuming marijuana. By way of explanation, he stated that he had recently consumed food that, unbeknownst to him, contained cannabis.
Delpopolo is not the first athlete this year to be disqualified for cannabis, as Scott Morgan explains in his post here. Information from the World Anti-Doping Agency suggests that anti-doping policies in sports are simply concerned with performance-enhancing substances which might give the user an unfair advantage, including stimulants and anabolic steroids. However, caffeine, a stimulant, is not on the list of prohibited substances, while marijuana metabolites are. The justification for this is not clear. Enhancement of athletic performance has not been proven, and there is no evidence that past marijuana use would endanger competitors. No explanation of the inclusion of marijuana on the list is given anywhere on the site. Has the WADA included cannabinoids on its list of prohibited substances out of legitimate concern for fairness in competition, or is this simply a concession to the prohibitionist attitudes of authorities who wish to police athletes’ personal lives?