For most athletes who compete in the Olympic Games, it’s the peek of their career. A lifetime of training, discipline and sacrifice all pay off for those exceptionally skilled and lucky few. Which is cool, but can they even smoke weed though?
The answer is simple enough: yes, no, and sort of.
For many years, cannabis was a no-go for Olympic athletes. The most famous case of a weed-doped competitor was back in the 1998 Winter Olympics when Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati took the gold, then almost had taken from him after testing positive for marijuana.
But since then, things have gotten a little more chillaxed at the World Anti-Doping Agency. A few years ago WADA, a collective led by the International Olympics Committee, significantly raised their THC threshold for athletes from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/ml. While the old rubric could essentially disqualify an athlete for having any THC in their system, the new threshold is trying to determine whether an athlete is high at the time of the test.
“Our information suggests that many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption,” Ben Nichols, a WADA spokesperson, told USA Today. “The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.”
So, while it’s not a great idea to smoke a bunch of weed while in competition at the Olympic games, if you keep your consumption light and don’t light up at all on game day, you’re probably going to be okay. That should make for a pretty bitching time in the Olympic village, along with the supposedly rampant casual sex it’s known for.
But. But but but. Cannabis is still technically a banned substance in WADA’s eyes, alongside steroids and heroin. And there are still consequences for athletes found with THC in their system. In 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tested nearly 3,000 athletes and found only four tested positive for a stoner’s favorite cannabinoid THC. Out of those four, one was taken off her Olympic team. One out of 3,000 is pretty great odds, but still bad news for wrestler Stephany Lee.
The tough break for Stephany Lee aside, it’s now kind of hard to disqualify yourself through spliff-hitting as long as it’s not right before your test. In order to top 150 ng/ml, a person need to be “pretty dedicated cannabis consumer,” according to NORML’s executive director Allen St. Pierre.
And, while rules have loosened, some make the argument that they shouldn’t have. USADA science director Dr. Matt Fedoruk said that, while cannabis doesn’t meet the traditional definition of a performance-enhancing drug, it might still be giving users an edge over their non-420-friendly competitors. “It’s how it affects some of the other parameters that are really important like pain or confidence or some of the things that are a bit more difficult to measure or define analytically,” Fedoruk said.
You heard it from a scientist. Weed makes you a better athlete.
Photo via Flickr user Noel Reynolds