Now that Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use, new problems are already beginning to surface with respect to sports and the drugs that are currently tested for and banned. For example, the NFL still has a ban against marijuana, yet NFL players on the Broncos — or any team traveling through Colorado to play the Broncos — may, by the law, smoke marijuana. This issue is only going to become more confusing in the years ahead as increasingly more states are considering following the Colorado model for legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
There are currently countless hypocrisies and illogical positions in sports when it comes to drug tests and bans, with marijuana being just one of the drugs in question. Marijuana may have a medicinal value to users when prescribed under a physician’s watchful eye — yet is still banned in every major sports league in America today. Other highly addictive prescribed drugs that come with scary black box warnings (side effects) are OK though, including prescription pain pills. In fact, many would argue that an athlete using a prescribed psycho-stimulant (what is commonly prescribed for ADHD) may actually give players an on-field advantage when competing, yet this classification of drugs are perfectly OK. Got all that so far??
For an eye-opening opinion from a former NFL player, check out what Hamza Abdullah recently said:
“If you’re 50 and have some ailments, doctors will give you marijuana,” says Abdullah. “If your 26, 27, and play in the NFL, you can’t have marijuana but they’ll give you Vicodin or Percocet.”
The point here is not to advocate for drug usage, but to instead point out some of the inconsistencies and confusion in sports today when it comes to drugs:
- Like it or not, America is becoming much more accepting of marijuana and it is very likely more states will legalize in the years ahead — sports leagues will need to revisit their drug policies and rules as a result
- There is a double-standard when it comes to sports leagues being “OK” with prescription pain pills and other psychopharmacological drugs used for various mental health conditions. In many of these cases the drugs being prescribed are very dangerous, addicting, and can even be advantageous from a competitive spirit position (cognitive abilities may be enhanced by using various ADHD medications as an example).
- Performance enhancing drugs provide an obvious advantage to users, but catching users is another question altogether. As we have already seen with Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez, beating the tests doesn’t seem very difficult to do (and you can add Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to this list of players widely accepted as users yet never caught by a drug test).
In summary, what we currently have today is the following: Marijuana is illegal in sports, even though it provides no competitive advantage whatsoever (if anything it hurts performance), and it is now legal in at least one state (Colorado). Powerful, addictive prescription pills (including pain pills) are legal and widely used, even though they are incredibly dangerous. Performance enhancing drugs are illegal, but they are often difficult to test for and detect.
As you can see from just these examples a lot of work needs to be done in college and professional sports in the future in order to iron out inconsistencies, strengthen drug testing procedures, and most importantly protect players from adverse effects of drug usage. Remaining “status quo” with current policies will not be an option as more states legalize marijuana, prompting college and professional sports to revisit their drug usage policies.
colorado, drug, enhancing, marijuana, NFL, pain, penalty, performance, pills, policy, sports