18 states have legalized medical marijuana. Should the professional athletes who play for teams in those states be able to use marijuana without penalization from their respective league?
Easy answer. YES. Exclamation point.
It is curious enough that leagues determine marijuana a performance-enhancing drug. As any marijuana-user will tell you, pot enhances many things–appetite, various sensations, and in some unfortunate cases paranoia–but it certainly does not enhance any kind of performance.
Doctors specializing in drug use concur with pot users. According to Dr. Gary Wadler, a New York University School of Medicine professor, author of the book Drugs and the Athlete and recipient of the International Olympic Committee President’s Prize for his work in the area of performance-enhancing drugs in competitive sports, marijuana actually worsens athletic performance.
Dr. Wadler outlines the detriments that marijuana has on athletic performance in an article for ESPN:
- Impairs 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 fatiguability
- Marijuana has no performance-enhancing potential
Because of the age and academic environment of college athletes, marijuana use must remain a banned substance in NCAA sports.
But for professional athletes it’s a joke to claim that pot is a PED. In fact, medicinal marijuana can actually help athletes with chronic pain, from which most of them surely suffer.
If lawmakers are finally allowing people to smoke pot for medical use — and in some cases, as in Colorado‘s, for recreational use — then professional sports leagues should align their rules with state law and remove marijuana from the list of banned PEDs.
The medical community has already formed the consensus that pot does more harm than good when it comes to athletic performance. It’s time that professional sports do the same.
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