Ross Rebagliati had his Olympic snowboard gold medal taken away for testing positive for cannabis, then had it returned because marijuana wasn’t technically on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned substances yet. That was 20 years ago. You can bet cannabis is on the list now, and even with Canada’s successful legalization of weed, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast.
“If athletes are allowed to consume alcohol and tobacco let them have weed,” Rebagliati implored to Reuters. “It is the only thing that is good for you of those three things.” Now 47, he has a company called Legacy Brands, which focuses on consumables made with the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), nutrients and home grow kits. CBD is cannabis’ non-psychoactive component, greatly used medically.
It was 1998 when the International Olympic Committee, looking to bring in a younger crowd, introduced snowboarding to the Olympic Winter Games. The first gold was Rebagliati’s. “My medal was the only medal in Olympic history that has ever been given back,” said Rebagliati, likely with a wry smile.
The thing is, legal or illegal in this country or that, WADA holds substances to a different standard: does the drug enhance performance? It turns out the medical jury is still out on that one. WADA added that there had been no recent discussion about cannabis in any way outside of answering questions.
“While the change in legal status of cannabis in some areas of the world may be one of many factors addressed during deliberations, legal status is not one of the criteria to be fulfilled for inclusion of a substance in the list,” they clarified.
“I am not sure if the IOC was looking at it from a social standpoint or because it was against the law, but I think now the responsible thing to do is look at if from a non-ideological standpoint and realize the benefits,” said Rebagliati.
“The NFL has been talking about using it for head injuries and recovery and other athletes from other sports, high impact sports, we’re finding more and more athletes leaning towards cannabis and individual extracts of cannabis to avoid the pitfalls of opioid use for pain-killing and other sorts of things,” he added, making poignant points.
Whether WADA is able to take cannabis off the list of performance enhancing drugs or not is yet unclear, though it doesn’t sound good for pro-cannabis athletes, which is too bad. Opioid use amongst professional athletes is rampant and with cannabis as a safe alternative, it should be taken off the banned list for that reason alone.