Whether or not cannabis is viewed as a performance enhancing substance, Olympic athletes are still deprived of it.
A drug test can lead to a suspension or even the loss of a medal. Just ask Canadian Ross Rebagliati. He was stripped in 1998 of his gold medal in snowboarding during the Nagano Olympics after a positive urine test for THC. What is the situation for these Olympics?
Rebagliati finally recovered his medal after pointing out that cannabis at the time was not classified as a prohibited substance. But every year since, cannabinoids are on the official "Prohibited List" published annually by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). And that list is for the current Olympics.
This does not mean that WADA is particularly strict when it comes to cannabis. In fact, the agency's boundaries are probably more lenient than those of an employer or the police.
In 2016, the Olympic cannabinoid standards were already quite reasonable. The urine of athletes should contain less than 150 nanograms per milliliter of carboxy-THC, a metabolite of cannabis.
In comparison, workplace screening tests commonly used by private employers in the United States set thresholds between approximately 15 ng / mL and 100 ng / mL. (Rebagliati, the snowboarder, had been tested with 17,8 ng / mL.)
WADA's THC limit was 15 ng / ml, but the agency quietly raised it in 2013. The director of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission said at the time that the change was “an attempt reasonable to deal with a complicated issue ”, adding“ There is a great debate about this. ”
How does the limit translate into actual cannabis use? It's hard to say for sure.
How long cannabis stays in a person's system depends on consumption patterns, genetic, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Athletes, who are generally leaner and more active than average, would likely be able to take a test earlier than most of us.
A difficult threshold to reach
A 2005 study by Paul Cary, director of the Toxicology and Drug Monitoring Laboratory at the University of Missouri, concluded that, based on the standard cut-off of 50 ng / mL, a chronic user is unlikely to produce a positive result for urine drug test more than 10 days after the last use. This threshold has been reduced to 20 ng / mL, and this window lasts for approximately three weeks.
In other words, to fail the test at the current WADA limit of 150 ng / ml, an athlete would have to be “a regular cannabis user,” officials said.
While the Olympic drug testing thresholds are relatively reasonable for cannabis, the testing practices are less so. In any case for high level athletes. Some competitors must meet whereabouts requirements. They allow agencies to conduct surprise checks with little or no warning, even outside of competition.
The limits for the CBD
In September 2017, WADA removed its restriction entirely on the cannabidiol (CBD). This puts WADA far ahead of many countries in the world, including the United States. The DEA has indeed attempted to claim that CBD is illegal.
WADA's warning on CBD is relatively benign. It just clarifies that consuming CBD could increase the likelihood of inadvertently consuming THC. This consumption could result in a positive screening test.
“Cannabidiol may also contain varying concentrations of THC,” the agency says, “which remains a banned substance.”
The therapeutic use exception
What about medical cannabis? In theory, there is an exemption.
WADA and its American counterpart, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), allow athletes to request authorizations use for therapeutic purposes (TUE). This allows them to use pharmaceuticals on the agency's prohibited list. It's basically a doctor's recommendation, proving an athlete's need.
If WADA did not give many details, the USADA site was more specific. He says the agency will consider such requests, but only for specific cases. From there, the agency looks a lot like the federal government. For example, unlike synthetic cannabinoids, the FDA does not approve cannabis.
The agency then establishes a link to a document the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). It explains why synthetic pharmaceutical cannabinoids are better than herbal cannabis.
Finally, Olympic athletes have a lot of room for maneuver with respect to cannabis test results. However they still operate in a world with limited medical protection.
As more and more countries are going to legalize cannabis, that may be changing.