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Back in 1998, Canadian snowboarder Ross Ribagliati won the first-ever snowboard gold medal. It was temporarily taken away when he tested positive for THC. The medal, however, was returned when it was discovered that the International Olympic Committee did not have a policy against its use.

Weeks later, when Ribagliati was a guest on the tonight show, North Americans had a good chuckle when he pulled the medal out of his pants pocket to show host Jay Leno. Perhaps he was stoned. It was such a casual act. The Monday morning water cooler conversation centred around how being high on cannabis can be a performance enhancer — who has the “killer instinct” when craving nacho-flavoured Doritos? Perhaps when shooting during a biathlon for the calming effect. However, that is about it.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), however, does have the “drug’s” metabolites listed as a banned substance. Therefore so does the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Recently two American athletes sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson (2021) and now Tara Davis-Woodall, a long jumper, were sanctioned. The latter has been stripped of her indoor national title and banned for one month.

The USADA’s press release read that she tested positive for the “main psychoactive constituent of cannabis, marijuana, and hashish, above the limit of 180ng/mL.”

Note, the description does not read, “performance-enhancing,” but “main psychoactive constituent,” to suggest perhaps its nefarious presence — somehow.

Davis-Woodall’s suspension began on March 21. She also was disqualified from any events that she competed in after Feb. 17. It seems the two were suspended just long enough for USADA to carry out its mandate of anti-doping, but nothing more, a symbolic gesture.

Richardson qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics with a 100m time of 10.86 seconds at the 2020 USATF Olympic Trials. A urine sample that she submitted tested positive for THC metabolites. After completing a counselling program, Richardson accepted a one-month suspension by USADA that began on June 28, 2021. She was suspended just long enough to be ineligible for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Richardson took the “drug” to cope with the pressure of qualifying for the Olympics while mourning the recent death of her biological mother.

Richardson’s suspension was criticized by many individuals and organizations in favour of relaxing cannabis rules, including NORML, Members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. U.S. President Joe Biden also suggested that drug testing rules governing athletes could be changed. USADA responded that as a signatory to the WADA Code, it has an obligation to enforce it in the U.S. Fair enough.

No doubt her Google search records probably show the query, “How long does THC stay in the system?” This, for future reference.

THC performance-enhancing qualities have been called into question. In many countries, consuming cannabis is legal or lightly illegal, and pretty much ignored. For example, it’s the new normal in Canada. What was once morally unacceptable is the new glass of Merlot with young boomers and Gen Xers who quite happily take edibles, chew gummies, snack on baked goods and openly smoke marijuana. Its therapeutic use for some people with certain conditions is well documented including PTSD and as a painkiller for chronic conditions.

Unless track officials place Doritos or pizza boxes at the end of the long jump pit, it is unlikely that a long jumper is to benefit from the effects of THC. It’s high time that WADA drops THC from the banned list. Certainly, its use in events that require sheer power and or speed like sprinting and long jumping is questionable at best.