This year’s Olympians in Rio are probably more worried about the Zika virus than getting busted for pot in their system, as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has raised the acceptable THC levels for Olympic athletes.
Competitors, especially endurance athletes, are not just smoking to relax or to calm sore muscles after a day’s event. A study from the University of Bordeaux in France found that when the brain is exposed to marijuana, it reacts to the THC by producing more pregnenolone, the chemical that is a precursor to the natural steroids produced by the body.
Pregnenolone is often used as a supplement to increase energy and reduce fatigue, so maybe a bit of pot could equal a little extra speed.
Colorado-based long-distance runner Avery Collins thinks so.
“I use it as a way to intensify and enhance the run,” Collins told Motherboard. “It makes the longevity of the runner’s high last longer because technically you’re already high.”
Many see WADA’s decision to raise the allowable levels of THC for athletes as not just a testament to the increasing acceptance of pot, but the fact that weed is viewed as having performance enhancement properties.
For that reason, athletes are not allowed to consume on the day of their competition, only during training, according to a WADA spokesperson.
As cannabis has been proven to deepen concentration, increase tissue oxygenation and decrease muscle spasms before, during and after athletic performance, this view has become widely accepted.
While marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties have been scientifically proven, these new studies suggesting cannabis has safe and acceptable performance enhancement properties only add to its attraction.
And it’s not just runners who benefit.
Let us not forget Ross Rebagliati, the Canadian snowboarder who changed sports history back in 1998 when the Olympic committee took away his gold medal after he tested positive for pot, but returned it a year later because weed wasn’t on WADA’s banned substances list until 1999.
When gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps found himself in the spotlight for the infamous pot-pipe-in-the-mouth photo, Rebagliati was the first person to publicly defend him.
“Anytime somebody gets in trouble for weed, I’m the guy the media calls,” Rebagliati told USA Today Sports. “I went on NBC to defend (Michael) Phelps for smoking responsibly. I told them, ‘Hey, it’s zero calories, zero fat!’”