Let’s be blunt about marijuana use in NCAA athletics

On Jan. 1 recreational use of marijuana became legal in California. You cannot smoke it in public, you cannot smoke and drive, and if you are an athlete under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) you cannot pass a drug test.

The NCAA drug-testing program intends on discouraging student-athletes from using performance-enhancing drugs, and it impacts the eligibility of student-athletes who try to cheat by using banned substances, according to ncaa.org.

The NCAA bans drugs such as stimulants, anabolic agents, alcohol and beta blockers, diuretics and other masking agents, illicit drugs, peptide hormones and analogues, anti-estrogens, and beta-2 agonists.

Drug Free Sport, a drug-use prevention and drug testing service, randomly selects eligible student-athletes for drug testing. Student-athletes are drug tested through a urine test, and they are observed by a member on the drug-testing staff of the same gender.

The penalty for a positive drug test for marijuana is prohibiting the athlete from competing for 50 percent of the season. A second positive drug test for marijuana results in the loss of a year of eligibility and prohibition of participation for 365 days from the positive test.

“Not being able to use a completely, natural and safe herb to help manage the stress of being a student-athlete and live with insomnia has affected my lifestyle greatly,” said Hadyn Gabbert, a California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) student-athlete.

Since collegiate and professional athletes are unable to use marijuana to cope with pain, they turn to prescription pain pills. Painkiller addiction is a dominant problem for current and former collegiate and professional athletes. Narcotics are finding their way into seven-day pill organizers and are being consumed as often as vitamins. Athletes will do anything they can to keep working through the physical pain that comes with their sport because the pressure to keep playing is too intense to rest.

Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, and the highest all-time goal scorer for the national team, recently came forward about her addiction to alcohol and prescription pain pills in her memoir, Forward. She began using the prescription pain pills for medical reasons to cope with the physical pain her body was enduring from soccer. Over time, using pills for medical reasons transformed into abuse and she began using it to cope with negative emotions.

“No one has ever overdosed from marijuana, yet year after year student athletes die from alcohol and other substance abuse. The relaxation and recovery side effects of marijuana use could, in the long run, benefit the athlete in more positive ways, contributing to higher performance levels,” said Karlee Neer, a CSUMB student-athlete.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabis element that has many medical benefits, according to www.projectcbd.org. It does not have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); therefore, CBD does not have a psychoactive compound that will make you feel high. CBD helps with in ammation, pain, anxiety, seizures, fatigue, insomnia, and muscle spasms. Because it is an anti-inflammatory, CBD helps lower recovery time, allowing athletes to recover faster.

Although there are disadvantages of marijuana use, marijuana could end the painkiller addiction epidemic and be a healthier outlet for issues such as depression and chronic pain, according to TIME Health.

“It will be interesting to see how the NCAA will adapt to how society is changing around us,” said Karlee Neer.

To find out more information on NCAA drug-testing and stay updated on policy reform, visit www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute.

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