Another Olympian was flagged after testing positive for cannabis, leading to a one-month suspension and having her national indoor title stripped. Sounds familiar? The suspension arrived shortly after Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the American team at the Tokyo Olympics for the same reason.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced on April 25 that Olympian long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, accepted a one-month suspension after testing positive for cannabis. While Davis-Woodhall’s ban already ended last week, the penalty also includes the loss of the long jump title she won at indoor nationals shortly before the sample was collected on Feb. 17.
Davis-Woodhall, 23, tested positive for THC metabolites in a urinalysis, which is above the of 180 ng/mL limit, after officials collected a sample in-competition at the 2023 USA Track & Field (USATF) Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 17. She was immediately reviewed to determine penalties by USADA.
“Davis-Woodhall’s one-month period of ineligibility is the minimum allowed under the rules and began on March 21, 2023, the date of her provisional suspension,” the USADA wrote. “In addition, Davis-Woodhall has been disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to February 17, 2023, the date her positive sample was collected, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.”
Her list of accomplishments is long. Davis-Woodhall achieved a new World Lead Long Jump of 6.99 meters (22 feet 11 ¼”) at the 2023 USATF Indoor Championships. Per the USADA’s penalties, that title will be taken away. Davis-Woodhall also finished sixth at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020-2021. She rose the ranks, hailing from the University of Texas originally.
Anti-Doping Rules in Sports
Cannabis is among the Specified Substances in the class of cannabinoids and are prohibited in-competition under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies, and the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
The USADA’s original reasoning for banning cannabis use among its athletes is that pot poses a health and safety risk to athletes and that cannabis can be performance-enhancing.
There’s a specific clause that allowed her suspension to be reduced to a month: In the 2021 Code, THC is classified under a special category that allows for a reduced three-month sanction if the athlete proves they consumed cannabis out-of-competition and it was unrelated to sport performance. The sanction may be further reduced to one month if the athlete completes a treatment program approved by USADA.
Sports regulators across the globe are constantly updating rules to increase the THC threshold or drop drug tests for cannabis, as the perception around cannabis changes. But WADA still classifies THC as a “substance of abuse,” specifically because it is frequently used outside the context of the sporting world.
WADA is reconsidering banning cannabis in sports now that perceptions are changing. WADA said on Sept. 14, 2021 that it will act on an endorsement from its Prohibited List Expert Advisory Group and initiate “a scientific review of the status of cannabis.
Rules in sports today are confusing, so USADA manages a drug reference hotline, Global Drug Reference Online, conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as a supplement guide, a nutrition guide, a clean sport handbook.