Pubdate: Wed, 16 Aug 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Donna Spencer
Page: S3


Canada's elite athletes are smoking, eating and investing in
marijuana. Is a toke before stepping to the start line far off?

The Canadian government intends to legalize recreational cannabis by
July 1, 2018. It's already legal for personal recreational use in a
handful of U.S. states.

Cannabis, hashish, marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are on the
World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) prohibited list, but only during

When labs receive urine samples taken out of competition, they don't
test for those substances, according to the Canadian Centre For Ethics
in Sport (CCES).

WADA also relaxed the in-competition threshold in 2013 to allow for
150 nanograms per millilitre of urine instead of 15.

That tenfold change is significant given Canadian snowboarder Ross
Rebagliati was nearly stripped of his Olympic gold medal in 1998 at
17.8 ng/ml.

He said he inhaled secondhand smoke from a joint. Rebagliati's medal
was reinstated largely because marijuana wasn't yet a banned substance
by the International Olympic Committee.

An informal survey of Canadian athletes planning to compete in
February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, produced a
variety of opinions, ranging from keeping marijuana on the prohibited
list to removing it when it becomes legal at home.

"I think it's pretty proven that it's not unsafe for you and it's
definitely not performance-enhancing, at least in what I do," alpine
skier Dustin Cook said.

"So yeah, I think it should be taken off the banned list when it
becomes legal."

Snowboarder Spencer O'Brien agreed.

"I personally do not smoke weed, but I feel like it's not a
performance-enhancing drug," she said. "I don't see any aspect of that
that would give somebody a competitive edge.

"Cigarettes aren't a banned substance. They're not great for you, but
they're not a banned substance. Once marijuana is legalized, I think
it should be something that isn't a banned substance."

Bobsleigh pilot Kaillie Humphries says she's never tried weed or hash
"and I think I'm the only athlete in the entire world," but knows of
teammates who smoke it and eat it in food as a sleep aid while training.

"You lift at 6 p.m. and you're wired because you had a big lifting
session. You're not sleeping until two, three, four in the morning,"
said the Olympic goldmedal winner.

"A lot of athletes use it for recovery. It's not something

But both she and luger Sam Edney agree: Sliding down a track at more
than one hundred kilometres an hour under the influence of a substance
that alters perception and behaviour is dangerous.

"For me, I feel it's a safety thing," Edney said. "In a racing sport,
under the influence is still under the influence."

The only Olympic sport in which athletes are tested for alcohol is
archery, with the in-competition blood alcohol concentration limit set
at .10 grams per litre by WADA.

The international sport shooting federation, however, says an athlete
showing signs of intoxication would be immediately booted from the
shooting range.

Skeleton racer Dave Greszczyszyn says he's seen the odd athlete have a
beer while training and racing.

The 38-year-old substitute teacher saw the coming legalization of
marijuana as a means to pay for his sport, which had its Own The
Podium funding slashed this quadrennial.

"I actually invested in a bit trying to make some money," Greszczyszyn
said. "Half of our team has invested in the stocks trying to make some
money to help fund ourselves in our program."

Substances on WADA's prohibited list meet at least two of the three
following criteria: Its use has the potential to, or can enhance
performance; its use presents an actual or potential health risk; its
use violates the spirit of sport.

Figure skater Gabrielle Daleman comes down firmly on the side of the
third criteria. She's adamant marijuana should not be removed from
WADA's prohibited list.

"I think it should stay on. I believe in clean sport," she said. "I'm
actually surprised that's going to be legal because all drugs are bad.
I do not recommend them at all.

"We should still continue to push for clean sport, fair, and doing
everything the way it's supposed to be."

Athletes tend to be fanatical about what goes into their bodies, so
smoking a joint seems ridiculous to some.

"You do not want to put anything down that throat that is going to
make your throat burn," ski cross racer Georgia Simmerling said.

The social and political winds around marijuana and cannabis are
changing as they are now used to treat pain and certain medical conditions.

The CCES's position is marijuana isn't performance-enhancing, said
president and chief executive Paul Melia, but not every country that
is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency code feels that way.

There is still resistance from some countries to completely removing
marijuana from the prohibited list, he said.

"Political pressures are probably more relevant to the question of
when and if marijuana would come off the prohibited list," Melia said.

"When the use of marijuana becomes legal in Canada, I don't think that
will have any impact on the status of marijuana or THC on the WADA
prohibited list."

When Canada makes cannabis legal, Melia says the CCES must be
pro-active telling athletes that's not a green light to partake freely.

As long as it remains on WADA's prohibited list in competition, there
is the risk of a positive drug test. The consequences are the
stripping of results and medals and a suspension of up to four years.

There are no hard and fast timelines on how long it takes marijuana to
clear the body.

"We stress marijuana is a fat-soluble drug. It's stored in the fat of
the body and it's not cleared out of the system quickly as Vitamin C
might be," Melia explained. "You can't make a blanket statement that
if you wait two weeks you're free and clear.

"What this means going forward with the legalization here in Canada is
the impressions and misconceptions that athletes might form.

"This means our education is going to have to be that much more
explicit, emphatic and targeted around this issue as it becomes legal.
Athletes may have the mistaken impression that means it's off the list."
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