Under the preamble to the World Health Organization’s Constitution, it states, “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without the distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.
So why then are athletes who suffer from clinically diagnosed illnesses prohibited from using medical marijuana by athletic commissions when a medical professional legally prescribes it? Are athletic commissions interfering with the ‘right to health’ of athletes, or are they simply maintaining the integrity of competition?
Putting conspiracy theories aside for a moment, athletic commissions have a responsibility to protect the safety and health of athletes, and to ensure that athletes do not use performance enhancing illicit substances. As open-minded readers, we need to establish for ourselves whether the use of medicinal marijuana affects the safety of the fighter when competing, and secondly, whether the use of medicinal marijuana is performance enhancing.
On an ESPN special, Dr. Gary Wadler, a New York University School of Medicine professor and lead author of the book “Drugs and the Athlete” stated:
“All forms of marijuana…are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC the main active chemical in marijuana that effects changes in the brain of the user. Marijuana’s effects depend on the strength or potency of the THC, which is only one of more than 400 chemicals present in marijuana”.
According to Dr. Wadler, the effects of marijuana on performance include:
-Impairment of skills requiring eye-hand coordination and a fast reaction time
-Reduces motor coordination, tracking ability and perceptual accuracy
-Impairs concentration, and time appears to move more slowly
-Skill impairment may last up to 24 to 36 hours after USAge.
-Reduces maximal exercise capacity resulting in increased fatigability
-Marijuana has no performance-enhancing potential.
While the evidence indicates that there is no performance enhancing benefits, there is clear evidence that competing under the influence of marijuana would adversely effect an athlete’s coordination, motor skills, and reaction speed. The level of effect being dependent on the amount of marijuana consumed.
In your opinion, should athletes receive medical exemptions for marijuana use, or do you believe the commission should maintain its strict no tolerance policy?