Can Marijuana Use Disqualify an Athlete From Olympics?

 - Sakshi Post

The news that American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson faced disqualification from the Olympics after testing positive for marijuana sparked a massive outpouring of support across the country. Last month in Oregon, Richardson, 21, won the women's 100-meter race at the US track and field trials. She was a favourite to win a medal in Tokyo, and with her bright hair, outgoing personality, and lightning speed, she appeared to be one of the games' breakout stars. 

However, her positive test invalidated her trial result, keeping her out of the top 100 at the games. If she is selected for the 4x100 metre relay team in Tokyo, her month-long suspension may end in time for her to compete. Richardson apologised on Friday and admitted to using marijuana to cope with the death of her biological mother a week before the trials, according to an interview with NBC. She said she found out about her mother during a reporter's interview. 

More than a dozen states, including Oregon, have made marijuana legal for recreational use. It is also legal for medicinal use in a number of other states. However, it is listed as a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency. On race days, the drug is prohibited, but not outside of competition.

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The agency states that "all natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited," including "hashish, marijuana, and cannabis products." WADA's rules are followed by the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.  Why is marijuana banned from international sports if it is becoming more legal, at least in the United States? WADA states that drugs are prohibited if they meet two of three criteria: they improve performance, pose a health risk, or violate "the spirit of sport."

In a 2011 paper, WADA stated that "cannabis can improve performance for some athletes and sports disciplines, based on current animal and human studies, as well as interviews with athletes and information from the field." Although there haven't been many scientific studies on marijuana as a performance enhancer, there is evidence that it can help some athletes relax and concentrate. However, it can have a negative impact on hand-eye coordination, concentration, and endurance. 

In terms of risk, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) stated that marijuana users "may endanger themselves and others due to increased risk taking, slower reaction times, and poor executive function or decision making." In terms of the "spirit of sport" rule, WADA stated that "the athlete as a role model for young people around the world is not consistent with the use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and may have performance-enhancing properties."

Although critics have slammed WADA's one-size-fits-all approach, the rules apply to all Olympic sports.  After winning a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana. He was initially stripped of his medal, but the decision was quickly overturned because marijuana wasn't on the list of prohibited substances at the time; it was later added. 

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