Doping Up (Cannabis-Style) in Athletes

Written by BlackbirdGo December 4, 2018
The People

There was a time when the terms “cannabis” and “athlete” came together, they were usually accompanied by flashbacks of 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps taking a bong rip covering just about every celebrity gossip magazine cover. That was 2009, and that was a much different time—a time where any use of the plant was considered dirty and scandalous. Smoking weed was immediately associated with young, dazed kids laughing uncontrollably through a veil of smoke while skipping class.

But, oh, how times have changed.

Hard, factual science is constantly proving that the plant has amazing healing effects on the human body. As of 2018, ten states (plus Washington D.C.) have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and thirty-three states (plus D.C.) have legalized its medical use. Baby boomers are reaching for these natural treatments to solve their aches, and young adults are easing the stress from an increasingly anxiety-driven world. And now, cannabis has become so un-taboo that athletes on all levels are incorporating it into their lifestyles.

Since our naivety of 2009, professional athletes and active adults have spoken out in favor of the integration of cannabis in an active lifestyle. Multiple NFL players, NBA stars, and decorated Olympic athletes have been repeatedly suspended for continuously testing positive for cannabinoids (even now, it’s still banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency). Some claim it contributes to their amazing performance in the game, while others use it for the medicinal effects it has on their physical ailments earned in action and as a way to avoid the epidemic of opioid abuse.

Former NFL tight end Nate Jackson is just one of the many vocal athletes who has spoken out against the ban of cannabis throughout professional sports. His op-ed for the New York Times calls for a complete overturn of the NFL’s policy, citing the medicinal properties cannabis has on the players’ inevitable and multiple injuries they painfully collect each season. Al Harrington, who played in the NBA for 16 seasons, openly talks about his marijuana use and now owns his own line of cannabis products.

However, the plant isn’t just recognized by world-renowned athletes. Many who live active lifestyles and participate in sports on a non-professional level partake in it for all of the same reasons. “The old stoner stereotypes are pretty outdated,” said New York resident and ultramarathoner, Kira. “Smoking a little before my longer weekend runs puts me more into the zone. My thoughts and my goals are clearer. I’m only paying attention to my body and my form.” Though Kira skips the high during her workweek runs, she’s smoked before her long-distance weekend workouts for nearly a year now. “Weed takes a little edge off and actually makes it pretty fun. I know running thirty miles on a Saturday by choice doesn’t sound like fun to anyone, but, hey, a little of that could change their mind,” she laughs.

Just as with any health-related product, cannabis isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. What may work for your weightlifting partner might not be what helps you feel your best. Luckily, we live in a time where we have access to an ever-increasing array of goods to complement your training.

Going old-school and smoking the flower offers quick results in getting a decent high. Finding a good sativa strain allows you to immediately feel focused and energized to take on your workout, while a smooth indica can give you fast relief from soreness or even pain. However, if you do choose to smoke before your training, you risk getting lightheaded, so be cautious in the amount that you smoke and what workouts you choose to do, especially if you’re just starting out in your cannabis-infused training journey.

For those endurance athletes who find pleasure in those thirty-mile training runs (ahem, Kira) or a good triathlon, edibles might fit your lifestyle the best. Edible cannabis products tend to remain in your system longer and can sustain through longer stretches of work. Plus, you’re bound to get a comfortable body high that allows you to focus on how you really feel.

For an athlete, recovery is just as important as the training itself, no matter what kind of sport you participate in. CBD products have impressive anti-inflammatory properties and come in countless different forms, from nourishing lotions to detoxifying bath salts. THC-heavy products can also help turn your concentration away from the discomfort. It’s recommended to go easy on these, however, as it might intensify your paranoia and make you second-guess how your body is truly feeling.

While Phelps’ backlash came down nearly ten years ago, we still have a long way to go to normalize the integration of the plant into professional athletics. Aside from countless anecdotal experiences, there has still been very little research completed on the possible positive effects cannabis has on athletic performance and recovery. However limited it may be, world-class athletes are continuing to push for different regulation and changed perspectives on their use. It might take a lot more than a few strong, well-researched words, and only time will tell if these organizations will budge on their stances. Phelps’ bong hits seem trivial now, especially in comparison to the lives that will be positively affected once changes are made.

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.