Pubdate: Wed, 16 Aug 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Donna Spencer
Page: S3


Doping landscape is tricky for athletes as Canada moves toward
legalizing marijuana

CALGARY- 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 prohibited list, but only during
competition. 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.

WADA also relaxed the in-competition threshold in 2013 to allow for150
nanograms per millilitre of urine instead of 15.

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

He said he inhaled second-hand smoke. Rebagliati's medal was
reinstated due in part to marijuana not being banned by the
International Olympic Committee at that time.

Canadian athletes planning to compete in February's Winter Olympics in
Pyeongchang, South Korea are split on the matter, with some believing
marijuana should stay on the prohibited list while others feel it
should be removed 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."

Bobsled 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 gold medallist.

"A lot of athletes use it for recovery.." Both she and luger Sam Edney
agree sliding down a track at more than 100 kilometres per hour under
the influence of a substance that alters perception and behaviour is

"In a racing sport, under the influence is still under the influence,"
Edney said.

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 either has 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 is adamant marijuana should stay on
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."

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 CEO Paul Melia, but not every country that is a
signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency code feels that way.

"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
proactive 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.

"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

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