Why are cannabinoids on the WADA Prohibited List?
For something to be added to the WADA Prohibited List, it must meet two of the three inclusion criteria: a) it poses a health risk to athletes b) it has the potential to enhance performance and c) it violates the spirit of sport.
In 2011, WADA published a paper in Sports Medicine discussing the reasons marijuana and cannabinoids meet the criteria. Below are excerpts from this publication that address the three criteria:
“Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.”
“Based on current animal and human studies as well as on interviews with athletes and information from the field, cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines.”
“Use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and that may have performance-enhancing properties is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world”.
In 2019, WADA exempted cannabidiol (CBD) from this category. However, all other cannabinoids, whether natural or synthetic, are prohibited in-competition. Even though CBD is permitted at all times, this article explains the legal and anti-doping issues that continue to make these products risky for athletes.