By Hempology | November 30, 2007
Marijuana is taking time and resources away from catching the real cheaters in sport, one of Canada’s top drug testing officials said.
Athletes who occasionally smoke marijuana and get caught shouldn’t face severe penalties, so drug testers could focus on steroids and other drugs athletes use to enhance performance, said Joseph de Pencier of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the group that administers drug testing for Canadian athletes.
“I don’t think it’s a fight that Canada and some other countries are going to win about getting cannabis off the list altogether,” he said. “I think we’re just whistling in the wind on that one.”
There is a debate over whether marijuana can be a performance enhancing drug, but athletes have to set an example, said Scott Burns, who represents the U.S. government at WADA (World Anti-doping Agency).
But the current rules mean that some university athletes have trouble getting into graduate programs when they test positive for marijuana when they are recreational users, which de Pencier said is too high a penalty to pay for smoking an occasional joint.
Both Pro Football Weekly and NFL.com, the league’s website, reported that Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams and Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye admitted to having used marijuana during interviews at the NFL scouting combine in February.
Former NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams has tested positive several times for marijuana through out his professional career.
July 2004: Suspended after testing positive for marijuana for the third time, Williams retires. Oct. 10, 2005: Williams rejoins the Dolphins. April 25, 2006: Williams is suspended for the season by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for the fourth time. April 2007: Williams applies for reinstatement but tests positive again for marijuana, delaying his return until at least September. October 1, 2007 Williams applies for reinstatement. It may take up to 60 days for a decision.
According to Sean Millington, a lot of players in the CFL smoke a lot of marijuana as well. Millington has spent 13 seasons as a running back with the B.C. Lions, Edmonton Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts and who has been a member of the CBC’s CFL broadcast crew off and on since 2003.
Millington’s revelation appeared on the CFL’s website, and was promptly removed within 24 hours of being posted.
In his column, he wrote an eyebrow-raising piece where he suggests a drug policy is not necessary for the CFL and even criticizes Commissioner Mark Cohon for planning to develop one.
“It’s all about politics, which is about optics as opposed to reality a lot of the time,�? Millington writes. “Mark Cohon wants the drug policy so he can have the CFL appear to be in line with similar policies in the NFL, NBA and MLB. This desire is birthed from a feeling of inferiority with regards to those leagues.
Instead of recognizing that the CFL is a distinct entity with unique challenges and advantages, once again, it is being compared to its supposed big brothers and being found wanting.
The NFL has a drug problem and needs drug testing, so we must have a drug problem and need drug testing.�?
Millington claims that, unlike NFLers, CFLers generally don’t get paid enough to be able to afford drugs — except for marijuana.
“To be completely fair there is a large amount of marijuana use,�? Millington divulges, “but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that smoking pot is a performance enhancer or that it has a significant negative affect on one’s lifestyle.�?
Other sports and their athletes are not immune to heavy penalties for smoking a little pot.
In June 2007 Canadian boxer Marc Bourassa was suspended from competition for two years after testing positive for marijuana. Bourassa defeated Canadian team veteran Adam Trupish for the 69-kilogram title at the tournament
It was during the national championships on Feb. 16, 2007 that his test came up positive. The positive test means that the 23-year-old is permanently ineligible to receive federal sport funding. Bourassa waived his right to a hearing.
There is still no word on whether he will be stripped of his title.
The CCES also announced that another Canadian boxer tested positive for cannabis but only received a warning. The athlete’s identity was not released.
Even disabled athletes with legitimate medicinal reasons for smoking cannabis are not exempt.
Such as the case of Canadian Paralympic skier, Kimberly Joines, who has been banned from competition for nine months after testing positive for marijuana at a World Cup event in Aspen, Colorado in May 2007.
Joines suffered a spine injury while snowboarding in 2000, and as a paraplegic she got right back on the slopes despite ongoing pain and discomfort. As a member of the national team, she has also suffered several crashes in training and competition, and was seriously injured when she fell off a chairlift in 2005, cracking ribs and damaging her shoulder. She also broke her femur in training that year.
She has no intention of staying on the sidelines after she’s done serving the nine-month suspension. Nine months is the maximum penalty for a first-time offence, which Joines says stemmed from a misunderstanding.
Joines had applied to Health Canada to be allowed to use medicinal marijuana, which she says she used as a painkiller because it had fewer negative effects than prescription medications. At the time she applied to Health Canada she was told that the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports would allow the use of medicinal marijuana, not realizing that the IPC Anti-Doping Code, which uses the same list as WADA – has no similar exemption.
While Joines plans to be back in October the incident caused some difficulty for the 26-year-old. For one thing, she lost her Sport Canada funding of $1,500 a month that she relied on. She will need to re-qualify next year on the World Cup circuit to have that funding reinstated.
Unfortunately, there is not a uniform policy regarding drug testing and marijuana in either professional or amateur sports in Canada or the US. It seems the inconsistent and harsh punishments will continue for athletes who partake in the harmless and non-performance enhancing weed.
Sports leaders who make the rules internationally think differently about cannabis. In Great Britain and the Netherlands both sports and government officials have recently called for cannabis to be removed from the list of drugs banned in sport.
Comments are closed.