Words by Charlie Batten- Sports Print Editor
In the aftermath of Sha’carri Richardson being banned from the Olympics after testing positive for having a chemical found in marijuana, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are now set to review the drug’s inclusion on the banned substance list for athletes.
In my lifetime weed has often been viewed in this weird middle ground when looking at drugs, it is illegal yet most people I know have either smoked it or at least tried it once. I don’t know whether that’s from growing up in a part of London where you could smell weed on the way to school or now living in Brighton where you pretty much smoke anywhere and no one minds. It’s also a drug that a lot of people don’t particularly view as a bad or dangerous drug as the side effects are pretty tame and nothing compared to other substances that are criminalised. It’s reasons like that which is why some countries and US states are beginning to make it legal to sell and consume weed which begs the question, why can’t athletes have it?
If you actually look at what marijuana does to an athlete’s body it’s all things that help them recover. It can ease pain and soreness as well as reducing inflammation which means it can help injured athletes recover quicker and get them back to competing sooner. You could argue that that gives an unfair advantage to one person that uses weed compared to one that doesn’t but all athletes are given a variety of pills and supplements when they’re injured anyway. Former American footballer Eugene Monroe said that using cannabis meant he went from “scheduling X amount of pills a day to eliminating all of them” which meant his recovery process was a lot simpler and ran a lot smoother.
Weed is also known for its usefulness in treating mental health problems, so why shouldn’t athletes have access to these benefits? Sports people are often placed on a pedestal that suggests they themselves are above mental health problems as they are perfect and focus solely on their sport. This of course is not accurate for athletes as they are human too and many suffer from depression and anxiety. Notably basketball players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love have spoken up about their personal struggles and tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 Australian Open due to mental health struggles. Sha’carri Richardson herself said “don’t judge me, because I am human” after her ban was instated and added “I apologise for the fact that I didn’t even know how to control my emotions”.
When you look at the fact that marijuana has these benefits that can help athletes mentally and physically, it seems like a no-brainer that it should be removed from the banned substances list by WADA. The global climate is moving towards allowing weed to become a legal and normal part of society so the question now is how long is sport going to take to catch up with them?