Pubdate: Mon, 21 Oct 2019
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2019 The New York Times Company
Author: Matthew Futterman


The sports industry's embrace of cannabis products is continuing to
evolve as U.S.A. Triathlon has become the first national governing
body of an American sport to make a sponsorship deal with a company
that sells products containing cannabidiol, or CBD.

CBD is a nonintoxicating compound that, like the intoxicating compound 
THC, is found in varying amounts in hemp, a legal cannabis plant. In 2018, 
the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned 
substances. THC and scores of other cannabinoids remain on the banned 
list, but by removing CBD, WADA opened the door for elite athletes to use 
and endorse CBD products.

CBD's benefits are said to include preventing pain and inflammation,
relieving stress and anxiety and even aiding digestion. CBD products
are available in several forms, including oils and lotions.

The financial terms of the four-year deal between U.S.A. Triathlon and 
Pure Spectrum, which is based in Colorado, were not disclosed. It came 
less than a year after Congress passed the Farm Bill, which legalized 
hemp. Growing the plant had been against federal law for many years.

Since then, sports organizations have tiptoed toward CBD and its
growing business. Much of the population knows little about CBD. There are 
some who still associate it with the more illicit uses of
marijuana, which remains illegal at the federal level and in many
states, even though it has been decriminalized in some.

U.S.A. Triathlon's exclusive deal with Pure Spectrum will help the
relatively small national governing body support growth of the sport
while trying to keep fees for races and other costs associated with
the triathlon at a reasonable level.

Membership in U.S.A. Triathlon declined about 25 percent from 2013 to 
2018. Interest in the sport increased significantly after it became part 
of the Olympics in 2000, but has waned in recent years for a variety of 
reasons, though triathlon boosters say they have reversed some of those 

U.S.A. Triathlon has annual revenues of about $16 million. About $2
million, or roughly 12 to 15 percent, comes from sponsorships.

Athletes at every level - who are often some of the earliest adopters of 
anything that can help people feel better, recover from workouts or 
improve performance - have embraced CBD. Rocky Harris, chief executive of 
U.S.A. Triathlon, said the movement to embrace CBD among participants in 
the sport led his organization on a six-month endeavor to determine the 
actual risks and benefits of CBD and whether U.S.A. Triathlon could 
responsibly pursue making money through a sponsorship deal with a CBD company.

"We needed to be able to say if you use this product you will not fail a 
drug test," Harris said.

U.S.A. Triathlon is not the only sports organization that has a
relationship with a CBD company. The Ultimate Fighting Championship
and CrossFit also do. However, the risk for a national governing body of 
an Olympic sport is higher because those organizations have to abide by 
all WADA regulations and submit to the most intense drug
testing protocols. Privately controlled athletic organizations, such
as the major American sports leagues, can choose to make up their own 
rules and drug policies.

Harris said U.S.A. Triathlon finally became comfortable with Pure
Spectrum because the company controls the manufacturing process from
the beginning and tests the products five times during production to
make sure they do not have any THC. Pure Spectrum offer CBD as
lotions, oils and tinctures. It stopped selling vape products last
week because of rising health concerns.

Brady Bell, the company's chief executive, said Pure Spectrum had
targeted elite athletes and consumers with active lifestyles since its 
founding in 2015.

"I understand what these athletes go through on a daily basis, from
the stress leading up to a competition, or training, the breakdown
their bodies experience," he said. "What better market to prove this
on than on the most healthy and educated athletes?"

During the past year, a number of notable personalities from sports
have established relationships with CBD companies or acknowledged
experimenting with the products. They include Steve Kerr, head coach
of the Golden State Warriors; John Isner, the tennis player; Bode
Miller, the skier; and Bubba Watson, the golfer.

Using CBD is not entirely without risks. Not every company is
fastidious about making sure its products are free of the banned
compound THC, and some testing procedures may not be able to determine 
whether a substance is CBD or THC.

"It's very difficult to be 100 percent certain that CBD products do
not contain THC," said Danielle Eurich, a spokeswoman for the United
States Anti-Doping Agency, which encourages any athlete considering
use of a CBD product to consult USADA guidelines on the organization's

THC remains on the banned list because it meets at least two of the
three criteria for prohibition - offering the potential for
excessively enhancing performance, representing a health risk and
violating the spirit of sport.

THC, as well as other compounds from cannabis, can decrease stress and 
anxiety, potentially improving performance. They can also be harmful to a 
person's health, and they can be considered a violation of the so-called 
spirit of sport because cannabis is illegal in many places.

However, doping officials no longer test for cannabis out of
competition and have raised the threshold for cannabis compounds that 
results in a violation. Also, it is listed among those recreational drugs 
that carry a lesser penalty.

Harris and Bell said they were confident that anyone who uses Pure
Spectrum products would not test positive for THC.

"We have hundreds of athletes using our product and more than 1,000
members of the military," Bell said. "We understand we are dealing
with the livelihoods of these people."

Harris said research he did ahead of the deal had allowed the
federation to answer questions it received from triathletes at every
level about CBD's benefits and risks compared with other forms of medicine.

"Athletes prefer not to take prescription drugs," Harris said. "They
want organic and healthy. They want to find something more natural."
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MAP posted-by: Matt