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Cannabis remains illegal for student athletes

By: Paige Johnston

The Canadian government has legalized cannabis as of October 17 but the recreational drug remains banned for athletes worldwide.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) leaves cannabis on their list of banned substance for athletes. The recent legalization has elicited conversation and debates around its restrictions in the world of sports. So how does this impact our Lancers?

Manager of Compliance, Eligibility, and Discipline at U Sports, Tara Hahto explains the official rules and regulation for varsity athletes.

“U Sports is a signatory of the Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP), which is implemented by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES),” says Hahto. “One of the key provisions as a signatory of the CADP is that all of our student-athletes are subject to WADA’s prohibited list.”

Hahto says that although the legal status of a substance in a country factors into WADA’s prohibited list, it’s certainly not the only element that comes into play when making decisions.

University of Windsor Athletic Director Mike Havey stressed the importance of effective communication between governing bodies U Sports, CCES and the University of Windsor and the athletes within these organizations. Havey emphasized the importance of making athletes aware of the unchanged state of cannabis use in sport and its non-removal from WADA’s prohibited substances list.

“There was a lot of effort put out by U Sports, individual institutions, and CCES to get the message through to athletes that from an athlete’s performance perspective nothing has changed regarding cannabis,” says Havey.

All varsity athletes at the University of Windsor are required to complete CCES’s online doping educational program annually before being able to compete. The University of Windsor also offers athletes face-to-face training through which local doping control officers present doping education to the athletes directly.

Knowing that cannabis, despite being illegal, has been a leading reason for positive drug tests in varsity sport in the past, Havey recognizes the now-heightened importance of athlete education on the matter.

“We educate about (drug use) and advise the policy (of cannabis-free competition) but at the end of the day these are adults and the choices they make are their own,” says Havey. “We give athletes the tools to make ethical decisions, but at the end of the day the choice is theirs.”

Head Coach of the University of Windsor’s Women’s Volleyball program, Lucas Hodgson expresses his concern about a prospective increase in positive tests.

“This is a hot topic right now and there are a lot of athletes jumping in to state their opinion on where they think this will go, but for now cannabis remains on the banned list and is illegal for athletes use,” commented Hodgson.

Aside from eliciting conflicting opinions, Hodgson expects complications surrounding the movement in the world of Canadian varsity sports.

“I think there will be many athletes testing positive going forward as they will not understand or realize the length of time the drug stays in their system for.”

Hodgson suggested placing trust and providing education for his athletes is his role as their coach to assure that they are following the rules put forth by CCSE.

“Our athletes want to win and we just need to make sure they realize that if they are caught using banned substances they will not only be hurting themselves but their team will lose all games they were associated with,” says Hodgson. “We also try to teach them that there is not a need for those substances.”

Substances like alcohol and caffeine have been added to and taken off of the banned substances lists in the past. Whether Canadian varsity sport eventually follows Canadian law and gives marijuana the green light is a debate for the future. For now, the policy is zero tolerance.

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