WADA eases marijuana restrictions for athletes


Earlier this week UFC officials announced lightweight Pat Healy would lose $130,000 in performance bonuses after testing positive for marijuana metabolites. There is a general feeling that while the rules are the rules and must be enforced, stringent prohibitions on marijuana are not in keeping with sweeping changes in the way sociey views marijuana use.

"Society is changing, it's a different world now," said UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner on March. "States are legalizing marijuana and it's becoming more and more of a problem with fighters testing positive and the metabolites."

Right now I just cannot believe that a performance enhancing drug and marijuana can be treated the same.  It just doesn't make sense to the world anymore and it's something that has to be brought up."

One quick solution to the problem, was presented by the The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which recently upped the standards for a positive test, to prevent fighters from competing while high, but not penalizing those fighters that choose to engage in marijuana on a recreation, or prescription basis.

WADA raised the threshold for a positive test for marijuana from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 nanograms per milliliter, significantly reducing the likelihood of detection for athletes who use the drug.

“We wanted to focus on the athletes that abuse the substance in competition,” said Julie Masse, WADA’s director of communications. “This should exclude cases where marijuana is not used in competition.”

Although marijuana is not considered a performance-enhancing drug, WADA included it on its initial list of prohibited substances in 2003 after caving in to pressure from U.S. sports officials.

“From a sports perspective, I was rather ambivalent (toward marijuana),” stated Richard Pound, an attorney who was WADA’s initial chief and still serves on the Foundation Board. “As we morphed into WADA, the USA was very keen to have it included.”

Although marijuana thresholds and testing are vague indicatives rather than precise measurements of use, WADA hopes that the new limit will lessen the chance that responsible recreational users will suffer disciplinary action. In recent years, a number of athletes, some of them legitimate medical marijuana patients, have faced suspensions and huge fines failing post-competition marijuana tests.

“There is no desire to go soft on the list,” WADA’s Athlete Committee announced, “but members want cheaters to be caught for cheating, not for recreational usage.”

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