The debate regarding whether the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) should declassify marijuana as a performance-enhancing drug has gathered steam yet again, after the top doping body, on Wednesday, said that it is 'reviewing the ban ofcannabis in sports.'
While some studies conducted in this field do suggest that the use of marijuana does not really help athletes enhance their performance, a paper co-authored by WADA's executive director Olivier Rabin suggests that the use of cannabis can put the athletes in danger due to increased risk-taking and slower reaction time. This is one of the major factors why WADA has banned the use of marijuana in professional sports.
While whether cannabis should be legalised or not is a long-standing debate, here we look at some elite athletes who were banned or faced suspension for smoking marijuana.
The Sha'Carri Richardson controversy needs no introduction. The sprinter was banned and forced to miss the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after she was found to have smoked weed in a test conducted during the US Athletics Olympic trials. This incident led to a huge outrage with some of the top US athletes and diplomats hitting out at WADA for the cannabis ban.
Ross Rebagliati is a snowboarder who won a gold medal for Canada at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Though Rebagliati was not really banned, he was stripped of his medal by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but it was returned soon after. Ross Rebagliati has since retired from sports and is now working in the cannabis industry.
An NBA star who currently plies his trade for the New York Knicks, Nerlens Noel, was banned after testing positive for marijuana in the year 2018. Then playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Noel was suspended for five games without pay.
An American Mixed Martial Artist who competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Cyntia Calvillo served a six-month suspension for cannabis use. Calvillo tested over the legal limit of marijuana during an in-competition drug test in 2018 and accepted a six-month suspension then.
Yet another MMA star from the USA, Nick Diaz was a UFC legend before he stopped fighting altogether in 2015. Diaz was a frequent user of marijuana and was tested positive for the third time in 2015. This led to him being handed a five-year suspension with a fine of USD 165,000. Though Diaz had his ban reduced to 18 months, his inability to pay the fine meant that he was considered ineligible to fight in the UFC.