Last updated on: 5/10/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

Is Marijuana a Performance-Enhancing Drug?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Johnny Green, Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference, in a Mar. 6, 2020 article, “Is Cannabis A ‘Performance Enhancing Drug’?,” available at cannatechtoday.com, stated:

“What’s the most popular sport in the world? According to World Atlas, it’s football (soccer), followed by cricket, field hockey, and tennis. Other internationally popular sports include volleyball, basketball, baseball, rugby, hockey, and golf. What do they all have in common? They ban the use of performance-enhancing drugs and do not condone the use of cannabis.

Globally, many sports leagues prohibit the use of cannabis by athletes. The Olympics also prohibits cannabis use. Most leagues incorporate drug testing that looks for the presence of THC, but not necessarily CBD or other cannabinoids…

Measuring performance enhancement can be a largely subjective endeavor. Determining what the threshold is for when something goes from being ‘performance enhancing, but not too much’ to ‘too much performance enhancement’ can be very tricky.

To highlight this point, consider that products like Gatorade can enhance an athlete’s performance to some extent by helping the athlete stay hydrated, however, sports regulators apparently do not feel that the enhancement is significant enough to warrant prohibiting Gatorade.

Some substances, like anabolic steroids, clearly provide such a dramatic enhancement in performance that regulators can justify prohibiting its use. Cannabis falls somewhere in between.”

Mar. 6, 2020

PRO (yes)

Pro

The USADA, in an undated explainer, “Marijuana FAQ: Your Questions Answered,” accessed on Apr. 22, 2021 and available at usada.org, stated:

“For something to be added to the WADA Prohibited List, it must meet two of the three inclusion criteria: a) it poses a health risk to athletes b) it has the potential to enhance performance and c) it violates the spirit of sport.

In 2011, WADA published a paper in Sports Medicine discussing the reasons marijuana and cannabinoids meet the criteria. Below are excerpts from this publication that address the three criteria:

1. ‘Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.’
2. ‘Based on current animal and human studies as well as on interviews with athletes and information from the field, cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines.’
3. ‘Use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and that may have performance-enhancing properties is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world’.

In 2019, WADA exempted cannabidiol (CBD) from this category. However, all other cannabinoids, whether natural or synthetic, are prohibited in-competition. Even though CBD is permitted at all times, this article explains the legal and anti-doping issues that continue to make these products risky for athletes.”

Apr. 22, 2021 - US Anti-Doping Agengy (USADA)

Pro

Anna Symonds, rugby player and CCO for East Fork Cultivars, in a July 24, 2019 article, “Cannabis for Contact Sports,” available at projectcbd.org, stated:

“Rugby is a physically demanding sport that requires both mental focus and a high tolerance for pain. It’s a full-contact tackle sport with no pads and no helmets, and the game flows freely with few stoppages – meaning continuous sprinting and collisions throughout the full 80 minutes of the match.

At age 38, I’m in my nineteenth year of playing rugby… Thanks to CBD and full-spectrum cannabis, I’ve been able to continue to perform at a high level in a very tough league…

Cannabis has been a great asset to me in preparing for athletic competition. The goal of pre-competition readiness, aka ‘precovery,’ is to optimize my physical, mental, and emotional condition leading up to game-day so that I can perform at a peak level. Cannabis helps in all of these areas… When I first started consuming the night before competition, the improvement in my game condition and performance was noticeable to me…

Cannabis provides rapid relief for fresh new bruises, strains and abrasions, as well as for deeper injuries like sprains or gouges, which are a regular part of rugby. Applied topically and consumed internally, cannabis remedies can relax stiff and painful muscles and quiet excessive contractions in a way that allows for deeper, restorative stretching.

A notorious appetite-enhancer, cannabis also promotes the food re-fueling process by easing the nausea and angry stomach that I sometimes experience after an intense day of competition…

Sleep may be the most important component of recovery for the brain and body – and not getting enough of it detracts deeply from how we function. THC-rich cannabis decreases the amount of time it takes us to fall asleep (sleep latency), while CBD supports greater sleep quality (deeper REM sleep)…

When I use cannabis, it doesn’t numb my pain, but it buffers the pain and deflects attention from the burden enough to make it much more manageable. It enables more and better functioning, so I can massage the painful areas and walk and move with a greater range of mobility. It helps me heal more quickly.”

July 24, 2019

Pro

Ross Rebagliati, Olympic gold medal Canadian snowboarder, as quoted by Jeff Moag in a Feb. 16, 2018 article, “Is Weed Performance Enhancing?,” available at theinertia.com, stated:

“I was known as the guy on tour that loved smoking weed… I found that I was able to use cannabis to get more in tune with my equipment, the snow conditions, how my wax was running. All the little things like the color of the grass, or how sunny it is or how… nice it is outside—those are the things you notice when you’re using cannabis…

People have stigmatized the term ‘performance enhancing,’ like it needs to be injected with a needle to be performance enhancing. A banana is performance-enhancing. Water is performance-enhancing. For me cannabis truly is performance enhancing If it helps you get through your workouts and recover faster, you are going to be stronger and faster and be able to jump higher.”

Feb. 16, 2018

Pro

Paul Landini, personal trainer and health educator at the Toronto West End College Street YMCA, in an Oct. 12, 2017 article, “Can marijuana help make us better athletes?,” available at theglobeandmail.com, stated:

“Now, the question beckons: How exactly does smoking (or eating) weed make one perform better? Doesn’t it just make you sleepy and paranoid?

Yes and no.

Generally speaking, performance-enhancing drugs fall into two categories: performance aids that increase an athlete’s ability during competition or training, and recovery aids that assist in the healing process after the fact. Marijuana sits squarely between the two ends of the spectrum. The effect largely depends upon the strain, or breed, of the plant.

Sativa strains act as mild stimulants, delivering an uplifting and energizing high that’s well-suited as a preworkout supplement. Indica strains do the opposite – the effect is more relaxing – sedating, even – making it ideal for recovery. Hybrid strains offer the best of both worlds, although one strain is often more dominant than the other.
Devotees… claim that a quick spliff before training increases sensory awareness, allowing them to tap into the mind-muscle connection, making their movements more efficient. Marijuana can have a focusing effect, too, making it easier to get through workouts without distractions. Those are the big benefits in terms of performance.

As a recovery aid, marijuana’s reputation speaks for itself. It can decrease stress, soothe minor aches and pains and, if you’re trying to gain weight, well, few substances stimulate the appetite better (just make sure those stoner snacks are of the healthy variety).”

Oct. 12, 2017

CON (no)

Con

Justin Nguyen, doctoral student in the natural sciences, in a May 28, 2019 article, “Is Marijuana a Performance Enhancing Drug?,” available at medium.com, stated:

“Some of the oft-cited benefits [of marijuana] are alleviating pain, muscle relaxation, decreasing nausea, improving mood, and increasing pain threshold. It also has been shown to ease anxiety and tension which can help an athlete perform better under pressure. It can increase focus and risk-taking behaviors, allowing athletes to forget recent blunders or past fears in competition…

What are the drawbacks to using marijuana? It is no secret that marijuana can decreases the motivation to workout… Flight simulation studies of professional pilots taking 7–8 mg THC (1–4 joint hits) have shown that marijuana will lead to cognitive impairment, resulting in decreases reaction time, disruption to hand-eye coordination and perception, and division of attention for up to 36 hours following usage…

What does it do to your muscles? PEDs are supposed to increase muscle mass, right!? Marijuana has been suggested to impair muscle building… What about hormones? PEDs increase growth hormone and ramp up your body’s testosterone, making you a real-life Hulk… The largest human study to date has shown no long-term hormonal changes in chronic marijuana users…

My main takeaway from this was that there is great potential for it to assist in athletic recovery and enhanced mood. These could be important for longevity in athletes but should not be considered performance enhancing. In fact, from what I have read, marijuana would be detrimental to most athletic performance if taken day-of. For example, you wouldn’t want to ‘toke up’ right before a team-oriented or focus-requiring event due to the harmful effects of your focus and motor skills.”

May 28, 2019

Con

Mark A. Ware, Director of Clinical Research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit of McGill University Health Centre, et al., in a Sep. 28, 2018 article, “Cannabis and the Health and Performance of the Elite Athlete,” available at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, stated:

“Cannabis may be primarily inhaled or ingested orally for a range of medical and nonmedical reasons; evidence for efficacy is limited but promising for chronic pain management. Although evidence for serious harms from cannabis use on health of athletes is limited, one should be cognizant of the potential for abuse and mental health issues. Although the prevalence of cannabis use among elite athletes is not well-known, use is associated with certain high-risk sports. There is no evidence for cannabis use as a performance-enhancing drug…

Medical and nonmedical cannabis use among athletes reflects changing societal and cultural norms and experiences. Although cannabis use is more prevalent in some athletes engaged in high-risk sports, there is no direct evidence of performance-enhancing effects in athletes. The potential beneficial effects of cannabis as part of a pain management protocol, including reducing concussion-related symptoms, deserve further attention.”

Sep. 28, 2018

Con

Michael Kennedy, Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales at Sydney, in a Mar. 2017 article, “Cannabis: Exercise Performance and Sport. A Systematic Review,” available at researchgate.net, stated:

“There are surprisingly few scientific data relating to the effects of cannabis on exercise performance. There were no studies which have evaluated strength or athletic performance similar to what have been conducted using anabolic steroids or stimulants such as amphetamine. No papers specifically related to measures of sport-ing performance such as running times, weights lifted or accuracy in a target related event such as archery. Internet sites generally recommended sportspersons use cannabis for its relaxing and analgesic properties rather than increasing strength or speed. THC is a bronchodilator. The pulmonary effects would be of little value in sportspeople with asthma, exercise induced or otherwise, as there are more effective agents at present available which have lower adverse reaction profile. Acute administration causes THC induces tachycardia in all subjects chronic use results in lowering of rest-ing blood pressure. The small number of scientific studies all show cannabis decreases aerobic performance or has no effect on it. There are no theoretical reasons to believe it could increase strength or endurance. It may impair abilities in extreme situations. There are claims that the psychological effects may have a calming effect before events but this has not been confirmed or disproved in a clinical trial. Apart from one case report of its use in a field reduction of a dislocated shoulder, there are no data to support claims that is possesses special analgesic or muscle relaxing properties for sportspersons. Cannabis is widely used as an adjunct to sporting activity and remains banned in sporting competition. Whether its use is contrary to the spirit of sport will remain a subject of continuing controversy. What can be said is that THC does not enhance performance in aerobic exercise and may adversely effect coordination in some sports. There are many case reports associating THC and analogs with adverse cardiac effects. These effects combined with the proven lowering of the anginal threshold pose a risk in the older athlete and those with unrecognised cardiac disease. In some states in the USA there are many medical conditions for which sports-people may legally obtain cannabis. There is doubt as to the valueof medically prescribed marijuana in some conditions for which it is able to be prescribed. This may create challenges to allow-ing cannabis to be accepted as a therapeutic use exemption in the future.”

Mar. 2017

Con

Ronda Rousey, former UFC fighter and current World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, as quoted by Joseph M. Hanna in a Feb. 25, 2019 article, “It’s Time to Get Real about Marijuana and Professional Sports: Part 1,” available at americanbar.org, stated:

“I’m sorry, but it’s so not right for him [Nick Diaz, a fellow UFC fighter] to be suspended five years for marijuana. I’m against testing for weed at all. It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. And it has nothing to do with competition. It’s only tested for political reasons.”

Feb. 25, 2019