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How Joe Biden’s Statement Prompted WADA To Rethink Its Ban On Cannabis

Biden cannabis ban

Published on September 18th, 2021

Perhaps the writing was on the Wall when United States President Joe Biden stated: “Rules… Rules are rules… Whether or not they should stay that way, or whether that rule should remain the law, is another matter.”

The ‘rule’ has been reviewed months after Biden made the statement. On Wednesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency announced that they would initiate a scientific review on the ban on cannabis for athletes. The anti-doping agency said that the review was being done ‘following receipt from a number of stakeholders’ without providing further details.

Now, it is being suggested that the agency’s prohibition on marijuana – which was under fire after Sha’Carri Richardson test positive for it) – could be soon relaxed.

Why Is WADA Reviewing The Ban On Marijuana?

Although WADA didn’t mention Richardson’s case in its statement, it’s believed Wednesday’s decision was the result of the backlash it experienced back then.

Richardson, who clocked sixth fastest 100m time, tested positive for cannabis in July during the US selection trials to host the Tokyo Olympics. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), banned Richardson for one month and she was removed from the American team. Given that cannabis is legal in many states in America, her disqualification has reignited debate about the ban on cannabis in Olympic sports.

Biden’s remarks came shortly after Richardson’s absence from the Tokyo Olympics. The Financial Times reported that the White House would push WADA to rethink cannabis use in sport. Back then, the USADA also stated that it was time to reexamine the rules.

Is Marijuana Legal In Several Countries?

Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana sales and purchases for recreational use in 2013. Canada followed suit in 2018, and many countries have made it illegal to some degree. Marijuana is legal in many states in the US, where Richardson was found to be positive. India has however not made marijuana legal.

WADA’s Code

The document does not specify which criteria are being violated by marijuana consumption. WADA’s executive Director (sciences and international partnership) Olivier Rabin co-authored a 2011 paper. He noted that athletes who use cannabis may ‘potentially harm themselves and others’.

How Does Marijuana Boost Performance?

This topic has been debated for a long time. In fact, some experts have offered a contradictory view to that given in the paper published in 2011, saying that performance is in fact adversely affected after smoking cannabis, thus arguing that it isn’t a performance-enhancing drug.

Alain Comtois, director of the University of Quebec’s sports science department, stated earlier this year to the BBC: “You need to see the whole picture. Although anxiety levels decrease, actual physiological data shows that performance is lower.

Athletes Suspended For Using It Before Richardson Was Convicted

Many athletes, including Michael Phelps, the swimming legend, have been suspended for using marijuana.

What’s Next?

Each year, WADA reviews its banned substances list. This review will determine whether the drug should be kept on the list beyond 2022. This means that smoking marijuana could result in suspension for at least one year. Based on the suggestion made by its review panel, a decision will be taken on whether it should be declassified as a performance-enhancing drug.