- Posted by Laura Croft, Esq
- On September 23, 2016
- activism, Athletes, breaking, California, marijuana, MCRSA, medical cannabis, Neurogenesis, Pain, Professional Sports, regulation, war on drugs
Quiet rumblings of the medicinal qualities of cannabis, and its profound benefits for athletes, is making its way out of the locker room to the forefront of American sports. Seibo Shen, founder of VapeExhale, explains that “with much of cannabis research, and the benefits for top-performing athletes, still in its infancy due to prohibition keeping the science in the dark ages, we’re only just now getting into real, data-driven research, and we’re learning new things every day.” Shen recently partnered with CannAthlete, founded by Jake Shields (Former UFC title challenger and Strikeforce Champion) and Denny Prokopos (Eddie Bravo Invitational Champion; three time Jiu Jitsu World Champion), in an event that merged cannabis with high-performance sports to enhance focus, performance, and recovery. CannAthlete and Shen have joined forces to smash the negative stereotypes born out of the 1980’s drug hysteria, archaic policies and tiresome officials, which are forcing athletes to compromise their personal health with dreams of triumph and national glory.
The following far-reaching benefits of medicinal cannabis, backed by the ever-growing scientific body of research, reveal game changing prospects for athletes:
1. Pain medication: Cannabis serves as a safer alternative to opioid painkillers, which in recent years have spawned a national addiction and overdose epidemic at alarming rates. Countless studies and clinical trials reveal that cannabis is effective in alleviating multi-origin neuropathic pain.
2. Protection: Degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., which is believed to cause debilitating memory and mood problems, is a particular concern for football players and other high impact sports. CTE and Athletes. The British Journal of Pharmacology published a study on Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine and traumatic brain injury finding that the activation of endocannabinoids contributes to the brain’s repair mechanisms in the event of brain toxicity, neuroinflammation, and trauma, and other pathologies with special emphasis on TBI [traumatic brain injury]. Numerous studies also reveal the therapeutic benefits of CBD (non psychoactive cannabinoid called cannabidoil) associated with neurodegenerative conditions and neurogenesis (the growth and development of nervous tissue), and benefits including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties. United States Senate Caucus on CBD.
3. Performance linked to reduced anxiety, pain, and stress: Skiers, MMA fighters, and other athletes, including ultra-runner, Avery Collins, explain that cannabis helps with longevity in training, stretching and focus. CannAthlete, and founder of VapeXhale, Seibo Shen, explained that “cannabis promotes a state of homeostasis, balancing the complexities of the mind and body and bringing athletes closer to flow state” – the state where the body is operating at an optimum level.
While the official policies of nearly all major American sports leagues prohibit cannabis use, there is a disconnect between conversations on the field and behind office doors. As research increasingly points to the potential benefits of cannabis in sports medicine, current and former athletes are becoming more vocal about their use. However, adverse implications still cast a dark shadow over cannabis use among professional athletes.
As laws and national perceptions of medical cannabis shift, many professional sports leagues are raising the threshold for a positive test of THC. Leading the march with Olympic athletes, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) raised the threshold for a positive test from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/ml, which is designed to catch athletes who consume marijuana during the period of a competition, and cannabis use is not prohibited out of competition. In 2014, the NFL raised the threshold for a positive test of THC from 15 ng/ml to 35 ng/ml, providing players more leeway, and colleges nationwide have greatly eased up on punishing student athletes for cannabis use.
While athletes are not criminally prosecuted for testing positive for THC (a positive drug test conducted by a private organization does not amount to the type of evidence required for a criminal prosecution, or the use is not in violation of state law), penalties for testing positive for THC, over the delineated threshold, results in monetary fines and suspensions. Suspensions can have a devastating impact on a young athlete’s life, with the inestimable cost of a once-in-a-lifetime championship or the Olympic Gold. For Olympians, there is no great platform for competition and in 2012, American judo athlete Nick Delpopolo was sent packing after testing positive from eating baked goods laced with marijuana and American wrestler, Stephany Lee, was expelled from the London Games after testing positive for marijuana. In the 2016 Olympic games, there was a greater focus on performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), with 118 Russian competitors banned from competing in Rio. We are witnessing a profound shift in stigma associated with medical cannabis and professional athletes. As societal attitudes relating cannabis with moral turpitude wanes, concerns of doping is focused on more “potent ergogenic drugs such as EPO, human growth hormone and testosterone,” Dr. Matt Fedoruk, USADA’s science director,explained in US Today.
With state laws regulating medical cannabis, such as California’s MCRSA (AB 266, AB 243, SB 643), in addition to states legalizing recreational cannabis use (Colorado Article XVIII, Section 16 and Washington Initiate 502), stereotypes will continue to dissolve, propelling movement to reform cannabis policy so athletes can medicate without fear of suspension and fines. Seibo Shen encourages athletes, and professionals in all capacities, to “come out of the green closet” to continue to break down outdated stereotypes and support professional athletes in their use of medical cannabis to protect and optimize their personal health.