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Does Marijuana Enhance Athletic Performance

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I have played basketball for most of my life, and I try to lift weights as often as I can. I always feel great after an intense workout. I am the first to admit that I am not an expert in kinesiology, nor am I a sports medicine major. However, I think it’s fairly obvious that consuming marijuana does not enhance my performance in physical competition. The last thing I want to do after hitting the bong is get in a foot race…maybe it’s just me?

Marijuana has long been known to slow down reaction time. That is one of the reasons that I enjoy it so much; my brain is going non-stop, and marijuana mellows me out…which is the exact opposite of what goes on in athletic competition. Reaction time is often one of the main determining factors in winning or losing, and I think it is safe to say that marijuana consumption does not give an athlete an advantage in this area. In fact, I think a strong argument can be made that it hinders the chances of athletic success due to slower reaction time. Maybe not in a sport like Frisbee golf, but certainly in most of the other sports.

Marijuana consumption can also lower testosterone levels, which is the last thing needed when someone is trying to become stronger. According to a study I found online, marijuana consumption depresses testosterone levels for at least 24 hours after THC ingestion. While I don’t think this is a big deal for the average consumer, it can be a problem for a world class athlete, who needs every hour of muscle growth they can get.

The point I am trying to make is NOT that marijuana is bad — I love it, and I think for the average marijuana consumer the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. However, the point I AM trying to make is that marijuana does not benefit athletic performance. I have never heard of someone running faster, jumping higher, and reacting faster in the clutch after consuming marijuana.

So why is marijuana a banned substance in so many athletic competitions??? According to the 2008 World Anti-Doping Code Prohibited List, all cannabanoids are banned. I heard that testing was very stringent in international competition in regards to marijuana, but I had no idea until I met Nelacy Porter, a paralympic athlete who has competed on the world stage in numerous track and field events.

First off, Nelacey is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He kept me laughing the whole time we were hanging out. During our conversation, he told me about when he tested positive for marijuana, and what happened afterward. Essentially, Nelacey was at a concert where his friends were smoking a blunt. He admitted that he got some second hand inhalation, but that he never hit the blunt himself. This was corroborated by the fact that his ‘positive’ test showed EXTREMELY low levels of THC in his system. So low in fact, that he would have passed the test, had it been a normal test that one would take as part of the employment process.

However, ANY spike in THC in international competition is grounds for sanctioning, which is what happened to Nelacey Porter (three month suspension). Never mind the fact that he received NO competitive advantage from his second hand smoke experience. Never mind the fact that the levels were so low in his system, that one could argue the levels were consistent with naturally occurring THC levels, or that he had eaten something without knowing it.

He was guilty in the eyes of the International Anti-Doping Agency…did I mention Mr. Porter is blind and DOZENS of doctors had been recommending he consume cannabis to alleviate his condition since he was 12 years old??? Do you think that such information would matter to the Agency? I tried to contact the agency to see if there is a medical marijuana exception to the rule, but my correspondence has gone unanswered…

From what I could dig up online, “Eighteen athletes have been sanctioned by USADA since 2005 for traces of marijuana. Twelve of them — Steven Cisar, James Connelly, Thomas Freeman, Amanda Hubbard, Cordera Jenkins, Phillip Johnson, Royal Mitchell, Josh Moreau, Nelacey Porter, Charles Smith, Joe Sowers and Michael Wilson — received three-month suspensions…” The most famous international athlete that was suspended due to marijuana consumption, of course, would be the legendary Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

Three months after setting a record in the Olympics, Michael Phelps was outed by some greedy A-Hole, in a picture that showed him hitting a bong. He received a three month suspension, despite the fact that he never tested positive for any substance. This was hammered home by the fact that he never received any threats that his medals would be taken away, just public condemnation for consuming marijuana ONE TIME. Essentially, the international athletic community is so caught up in reefer madness, that they don’t need testing to go on a crusade, all they need is a picture…

The International Olympic Committee, which formed the Anti-Doping Agency, are complete hypocrites. The purpose of creating the agency is to deter athletes from using stimulants and anabolic substances, which give them an edge on in competition. However, Dr. Gary Wadler, a New York University School of Medicine professor and lead author of the book “Drugs and the Athlete”, WHO WON THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PRESIDENT’S PRIZE for his work in the area of performance-enhancing drugs in competitive sports, stated the following facts about marijuana and athletic performance:

Impairs skills requiring eye-hand coordination and a fast reaction time

Reduces motor coordination, tracking ability and perceptual accuracy

Impairs concentration, and time appears to move more slowly

Skill impairment may last up to 24 to 36 hours after usage

Reduces maximal exercise capacity resulting in increased fatiguability

Marijuana has no performance-enhancing potential

Because marijuana is stored in the body fat, its effects may be long-lasting. “It has been shown that performance skills can be impaired for as long as 24 hours after marijuana usage,” says Wadler, “which casts doubt on the commonly held belief that the social use of marijuana the evening prior to an athletic event will not affect performance.”

What do TWB readers think? Do you think that marijuana should be banned for athletes? Do you think that it gives athletes an edge in competition? Or do you feel that reefer madness is not only running rampant at the national level, but it is prevalent at the international level? I thought the Olympics were supposed to be about athletics, not politics…maybe that’s just me.

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Johnny Green

7 Comments

  1. I like to read about other speculating on what marijuana does to exercise and fitness. I am not a doctor and can only share my personal experience. I am 45, exercise 1-3 hours a day, perfect health, and take a few tokes before the gym and outdoor runs. I have participated in a number of tri’s, half, and full marathons – sometimes smoking before and other times not. As for me, the use of weed before a race has no effect. I did smoke before my 6 minute PR last year in the Columbus Marathon. Does that mean weed made me run faster? Of course not, but it does make the mile markers disappear faster than not smoking.

    I do not like to smoke before triathlon events because of the swim and bike, but really enjoy it for my cardio and weightlifting. My overweight neighbor, taking multiple medications, tells me about all the health risks associated with marijuana usage. He is also an expert who knows nothing.

  2. I love how Michael Phelps really didn’t get much crap from his sponsors and press. I mean it was there for a day and then people sorta laughed. Leave him alone, he won 7 gold medals lol.

  3. has never helped me in sport… but i did know of a friend that was helped by smoking weed when playing cards (poker) surprisingly. he always did 100x better playing with having a smoke

  4. Never mind sending it in black-and-white… When I outlined it and copied in into Word,
    it came out not in reverse, but in b&w. Maybe one could call it “reverse reverse.”

  5. a) The International Anti-Doping Agency does not exist. Perhaps this is why they did not contact you. Do you mean the world anti-doping agency (WADA)

    b) Michael Phelps did not receive a suspension from USADA or WADA as your article seems to imply. His suspension was from USA Swimming and had nothing to do with marijuana being a performance enhancing drug. In fact USA Swimming released the following statement.

    “This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people…….”

    c) Would you want an archery athlete, biathlon athlete, or a shooting athlete to be high on marijuana in the lane next to you. Probably not a good thing and can hurt other competitors. Anti-doping organizations like WADA have goals of protecting athletes with all issues having to do with substances. Its not only about running higher and jumping farther

  6. I thought your comments concerning marijuana and its non-effects on enhancing athletic performance were quite apposite.

    However, I wish you could have presented them in black and white, instead of the nearly unreadable white on black (usually referred to as “reverse”).

    Exhaustive research on readability conducted by the Newspaper Advertising Bureau (which, believe me, really CARED about readability, established that reverse text set in ordinary-size newspaper or magazine type reduced readership by 30-40%, and the longer the text was, the more readership dropped off.

    Just check the paragraph that starts “From what I could dig up…” It’s easy to see that certain letters tend to be especially shaky… notably r, n h, p, and l, and there are probably others.

    I am working on a major piece about the hypocrisy of the “Anti-Doping Movement,” and
    would like to have your excellent post, but it’s not much use to me in reverse.

    Is there any way you could send me a copy in good old b&w, please?

    Cordially,

    James Dunaway
    Editor, American Track & Field

    Of course that’s

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