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Athletes shouldn't be penalized for marijuana use since it isn't a performance enhancement drug.

Marijuana usage among athletes may be on some people’s minds since the news of track and field runner Sha'Carri Richardson’s U.S. suspension due to a positive test for marijuana use. Sports and drugs have never been compatible because of the ability to cheat and gain an unnatural advantage over one’s opponent. Yet, with states continuing to legalize marijuana, the stigma around its usage within sports is changing. It’s becoming increasingly evident that weed can and should be allowed within all levels of sports. 

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is in charge of publishing a list of prohibited drugs in sports of all levels each year. The list is an international standard that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) uses when it tests players at Olympic, professional and collegiate levels. Marijuana is a part of the cannabinoids, drugs that contain the compounds that give weed its effects. According to WADA’s list, cannabinoids are only prohibited in competition. This begs the question: Why are they only banned in competition? Why would an athlete want to smoke weed before an official event? What physical or mental advantages does a player gain from smoking weed? 

Athletes often use weed as a recovery tool rather than a performance-enhancing drug (PED). It can be used to reduce joint inflammation, muscle spasms, ease soreness and pain and help calm anxiety, according to muscleandfitness.com. There are no studies that prove weed gives a player significant physical advantages after its use, like running faster or becoming stronger. If anything, the drug actually hurts more than it helps by damaging players’ lungs and impairing motor skills. This is why it wouldn’t be unnatural for a player to use marijuana in the offseason to recover from training.

There are many players throughout the years who have smoked weed and maintained their image. Randy Moss, one of the most famous NFL players of all-time, smoked weed even before he got into college. Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups told The Washington Post that he encouraged players to smoke before games to calm their nerves. Evidently, some of the greatest players of all-time used marijuana only for its recovery and calming effects. 

It’s time to accept marijuana as a tool for players to use if they want to rather than classifying it as an illegal substance that grants unnatural benefits.  

Despite Virginia’s legalization of recreational marijuana use on July 1, JMU Athletics’ policies remain slated against the use of the drug within its programs. As Kevin Warner, assistant athletic director for communications within JMU Athletics, said, “Regardless of changes to legalization in Virginia, marijuana is still a banned substance by the NCAA, thus there are no changes to JMU Athletics policy at this time.” Since JMU is an affiliate of the NCAA, it’ll have to wait for a change to the NCAA policies on marijuana before it can change its own. 

Although what happened to Richardson was disappointing, it might be beneficial for future approval of marijuana. Additionally, as recreational use of marijuana around the country continues to become legal, it’s only a matter of time before the sports world sees marijuana for what it truly is: a preventive recovery tool that helps players without giving them unnatural advantages. 

Nick Lau is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact Nick at launa@dukes.jmu.edu.