This winter’s Olympic athletes can use all the CBD oil they can handle without being disqualified for a medal, but they might get arrested as soon as they step off the podium. The 2018 Winter Games is the first Olympics since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) crossed cannabidiol off its prohibited substance list on January 1st. Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) upholds the WADA code, that means CBD is now fair game for Olympic athletes.
The only problem is that this winter’s games are hosted by South Korea, which, like most of the rest of the world, still considers all forms of cannabis a controlled substance. In fact, the Republic of Korea takes a particularly harsh attitude toward marijuana use. There, just testing positive for cannabis use can get you arrested, and being found guilty of cannabis use can result in months of jail time. (In a strange twist, the totalitarian regime in North Korea is actually an unusually permissive country when it comes to cannabis use).
Though WADA no longer officially penalizes athletes for using CBD, it doesn’t exactly encourage it either. The organization still points out in a warning to athletes that using CBD could inadvertently result in other banned cannabinoids contaminating their systems. “Cannabidiol extracted from cannabis plants may also contain varying concentrations of THC,” the agency says, “which remains a prohibited substance.”
Cannabis use by athletes has been an official no-no for Olympic athletes ever since the controversial case of Ross Rebagliati, who in 1998 tested positive for marijuana after winning a gold medal for snowboarding. Rebagliati was allowed to keep his medal, but the IOC decided thereafter to ban cannabis use by all athletes.
Though it has taken a hardline against cannabis over the last two decades, the use of CBD is now technically allowed by athletes, as is the use of medical marijuana. WADA accepts applications for Therapeutic Use Exemptions, which allow athletes to use substances prohibited by WADA it they have a doctor’s recommendation and their application meets the criteria of the organization.
Photo via Flickr user Kevin Dooley