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The suspension of U.S. runner Sha’Carrie Richardson over a positive marijuana test led many to call for a change in the Olympics rules – even President Joe Biden, senior White House officials, and U.S. sports regulators said it might be time to rethink punishing athletes for cannabis. …

But how did the ban on sports come about? The Marijuana Moment spoke with the first president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to gain a more detailed understanding of how the policy developed, which turned out to be the result of pressure from the US itself.

Some of those who defended the lawsuit against Richardson argued that since cannabis is strictly prohibited in other countries, it doesn’t make sense to overturn an international rule just because legalization is advancing in the United States. It was the United States in the 1990s that played a leading role in the bullying of the sports governing body, which in the first place included cannabis on the list of banned substances for the Olympic Games.

For example, then-US drug lord Barry McCaffrey, who worked under President Bill Clinton, sent a 10-page memo to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1998 stating that the games “must adopt a comprehensive drug program,” which should include punishing participants who test positive for recreational drugs such as marijuana, the Associated Press reported. report while.

“We’re raising Olympic athletes to international podiums to be seen as role models for all the world’s children – it’s vital that the message they send is drug-free,” McCaffrey, then head of the White House’s National Drug Control Policy. (ONDCP), which provided the IOC with $ 1 million to combat drug use. “The goal of all these efforts should be to prevent drug-tarnishing of Olympic medals and the Olympic movement.”

Thus, aggressive US attempts to criminalize drugs at home have been reflected in political attitudes in the world athletics arena. And the Clinton administration prided itself on influencing the IOC to bring about change, touting its efforts in the 2000 ONDCP report, Agency Achievements and Important Actions.

Following news that a Canadian snowboarder who won a gold medal has tested positive for marijuana, ONDCP is “seriously concerned about the impact of this victory on youth drug attitudes,” the drug lord’s office said.

The medal “seemed to directly undermine our message to young people that drug use undermines a child’s ability to succeed.” continuation… “ONDCP has launched a wave of efforts to get the IOC to ban marijuana in games. In short, these efforts were successful and the IOC banned marijuana. “

Richard Pound, who was the first president of WADA, told Marijuana Moment about the origins of the cannabis ban and said that the United States is “really quite adamant that [cannabis] got on the list of prohibited substances.

“The US has been a leader who has said – and this was expressed by the ONDCP – that we believe marijuana is an entry-level drug. If you can keep people from using marijuana, they will not switch to cocaine and heroin, and some others will not switch to other chemical variations of these substances. “

Pound, who represented Canada as a swimmer at the Olympics and later served as IOC vice president before heading up WADA, said he initially had a strained relationship with McCaffrey as ONDCP took the position that “we are basically nothing did, didn’t want or didn’t offer it was good. “

But after requesting a meeting at the White House to discuss general principles and policies, the official said that “well, it looks like we don’t have any significant differences at all,” according to Pound, and the relationship became productive.

Pound told Marijuana Moment that he believes the international committee that decides to ban the substances should take another look at cannabis, and he personally believes that the policy could be changed so that a positive THC test is punished with a warning without threat of suspension. He is perplexed that the US team has chosen to punish Richardson beyond the international community’s 30-day ban, deciding not to allow her to participate in the relay that goes beyond that window.

“I would have thought it would make sense at first glance to try to put together the best team on the field,” he said. In the recent interview In an interview with the Washington Post, he also said that he believed the WADA drug code would soon be amended to remove marijuana from the list of prohibited substances.

McCaffrey said it was worth it. Politico that he does not remember specifically pushing for a cannabis ban and was more focused on performance enhancing drugs such as steroids. Pound said he could not recall any specific conversation with the then ONDCP director about marijuana policy.

“I can’t remember discussing this if Barry got full support,” Pound said. “But that was definitely the United States point of view. Whether it was a moat in which he was ready to die, I do not know. But that was definitely the US position. “

He added that while the US has a huge impact on these issues, the desire to add cannabis to the banned list “is shared by many, many, many other countries.”

In any event, Richardson’s suspension for marijuana use in a legal state after her mother’s death sparked widespread calls for reform in the governing bodies of the Olympic Games.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the White House and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) expressed sympathy for the runner and indicated that he Maybe it’s time to reassess the marijuana ban

Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously refused to condemn the sanctions of the Olympics officials on Richardson when asked about the issue in a press briefing last week, but she told CNN in new comments that the case underscores the need to “take another look” at the cannabis rules, especially in light of the decision to ban the athlete from the second phase who did not fall under the 30-day suspension

USA Track & Field also said this week that international cannabis punishment policy for athletes “Should be reevaluated.”

Biden said Saturday that while “rules are rules,” he also suggested that there is an open question about whether “they should remain the rules.” And this is remarkable for a president who continues to oppose the legalization of adult use.

Last week, a bipartisan congressional meeting harshly condemned Richardson’s punishment, and leaders of a key House subcommittee sent a harsh letter to the US Anti-Doping Agency and the US Anti-Doping Agency urging the authorities to “strike at civil liberties.” civil rights by changing that course. “

Separate group lawmakers also sent a letter to USADA Friday to call for a policy change.

“We believe cannabis does not fit the description of scientifically proven risk or harm to the athlete,” they wrote, “and USADA perpetuates stereotypes and rhetoric fueled by the racist war on drugs, claiming its personal and non-personal use. competition, violates the “spirit of sport” “.

Meanwhile, Nevada’s sports regulators voted Wednesday to have athletes are no longer penalized for testing positive for marijuanaand during the meeting, participants cited the Richardson case as an example of why this policy is inappropriate.

Lawyers have broadly supported domestic marijuana policy reforms at other major professional sports organizations, arguing that they are long overdue, especially given the ever-expanding legalization movement.

Nfl drug testing policy has clearly changed last year, for example, under a collective agreement. Under this policy, NFL players will not be prevented from being barred from games for testing positive for any drug, not just marijuana.

Similarly, in 2019, MLB decided remove cannabis from the league’s banned substances list… Baseball players can use marijuana without risk of discipline, but officials clarified last year that they cannot work while drunk and cannot sponsor cannabis businesses, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, the interim NBA policy do not randomly test players for drugs for marijuana In December, a senior league official said it could soon become permanent amid the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Adam Silver said that instead of prescribing general tests, the league will look to players who show signs of problem addiction. not those who “accidentally use marijuana.”

However, a new YouGov poll found that women markedly more likely to oppose Richardson’s removal than men.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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