Status of Cannabis

  • IASbaba
  • September 27, 2022
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In News: In September last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it was reviewing the status of cannabis, which is prohibited in competition. This followed the positive test of USA’s sprinting star Sha ‘Carri Richardson during the US Olympic Track and Field trials in June. She was banned and missed the Olympics. However, recently WADA said the recreational drug would remain on its list.

Cannabis and Marijuana

  • Cannabis is sourced from the cannabis sativa plant.
  • There are over 500 chemical substances in the plant but the one on Wada’s prohibited list is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • THC gives users of marijuana a high. So, cannabis in Wada’s books is marijuana, the chemical in which is THC.

The Ban of Cannabis

  • Cannabis is banned only in-competition.
  • This means that an athlete faces a risk of getting banned only for a positive test from a sample collected during a competition.
  • For example, an athlete can smoke marijuana in the off-season and test positive but is unlikely to be banned.
  • From 2021 onwards, a positive test for cannabis can result in as short a ban as one month, according to Wada.
  • For a reduced ban; down from two to four years earlier, athletes must prove that the use of cannabis was before entering a competition, which means the athlete did not intend to experience its effects while competing.

Review by WADA Code

  • Under the Wada code, cannabis is defined as a ‘substance of abuse’.
  • Wada says the current limit of 150 nanograms per millilitre in urine will be found in athletes who are frequent users and are impaired because of the effects of cannabis. The threshold limit in 2013 was just 15 ng/ml.
  • Potential to enhance performance, health risk to athletes and the spirit of the sport are the criteria these experts looked at. A substance needs to meet two of these three criteria to be included in the prohibited list.
  • Wada says that use of cannabis violates the spirit of the sport but didn’t specify which of the other two criteria the recreational drug met.

Is cannabis performance enhancing in sports?

  • Cannabis is known to delay fatigue, mask pain and improve concentration but at the same time can increase heartbeat which is not good
  • Cannabis, like all drugs, has its pros and cons but it is still unclear if it can help an athlete. There are studies that show it can reduce motor movement.

Evidence of an increasing number of runners using cannabis during training was documented in the book Runners’ High by Josiah Hesse. A research paper titled ‘Cannabis in sport, anti-doping perspective’ says

  • There are benefits for athletes such as ‘improved oxygenation to tissues, improvement of vision for goalkeepers, and muscle relaxation.
  • Cannabis can also reduce anxiety, fear, and tension.
  • Athletes under the influence of cannabis indicate that their thoughts flow more easily and their decision-making and creativity is enhanced; others claim that cannabis improves their concentration or reduces pain.
  • Health professionals have encountered athletes including gymnasts, divers, football players and basketball players who claim smoking cannabis before play helps them to focus better.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 

  • A foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee based in Canada to promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against drugs in sports. \
  • Set up on 10 November 1999 in Lausanne, Switzerland, as a result of what was called the “Declaration of Lausanne”
  • Headquarters: In Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  • The agency’s key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code, whose provisions are enforced by the UNESCO International Convention Against Doping in Sport.
  • It delegates work in individual countries to Regional and National Anti-Doping Organizations (RADOs and NADOs) and mandates that these organisations are compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Source:  Indian Express   

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