It appears as though some people in Colorado would like to remind NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that pot is not only legal in their state, but also a viable (and safer) option to alcohol when it comes to recreational drug use (check out all the NFL alcohol arrests here). Colorado, like a number of states in the country, allow their residents to purchase and use medical marijuana — but they also permit residents of the state to use marijuana for recreational use as well. This new provision has created unforeseen concerns, one being how professional sport leagues will respond when some of their players decide to use a legal drug – but one that is still not approved by the league.
Drugs & Sports in 2013
The discussion of drugs and sports has expanded and become much more complex in recent years (even before the new Colorado campaign), as increasingly more Americans are prescribed drugs that supposedly do everything from improve mood states to increase sexual energy to helping people sleep better. On the performance side, it’s near impossible to tell anymore what drug is legal versus what is illegal — and the reasons for these distinctions. The lines have become very blurred, both with respect to efficacy and safety, as well as what sports leagues deem OK versus being a banned substance.
It is interesting that alcohol is legal and widely used (and without any known medical benefit), while nearly every other street drug (including marijuana, even in states where it is legal) is outlawed by sports leagues. Similarly, countless prescription drugs are allowed, yet there are mountains of side-, withdrawal-, and interaction-effects that seem to go unnoticed (just read the black box warnings or try to keep up with all the warnings you see on the television commercials). For example, prescription pain pills are commonly used, yet these opiate-based drugs are highly addicting and have lead to countless long-term problems with users (and can be deadly).
What is good? What is safe? What has medical implications? What recreation drugs should be permitted? In 2013, these are all good questions that sports leagues must evaluate. Some critics have even argued that all performance drugs (including steroids) should be OK, too. The thinking here is that a) many athletes use already, and b) users know the risks associated and are on their own when deciding to use.
Whatever your position is on sports and drug policies, one thing we can agree on is that nobody really knows for sure where to draw the line. Some feel (including many doctors) that medical marijuana has great potential for helping some medical conditions, yet marijuana is currently banned by college and pro sports. Others feel prescription pills are a much bigger danger, yet these drugs are widely accepted and used. Putting this in simpler terms, an athlete who uses marijuana recreationally is breaking the law, while another athlete abusing prescription sleeping pills, pain pills, and alcohol is in the league’s eyes perfectly OK. It’s a very complex and confusing time in sports today, especially when it comes to the types of drugs and supplements athletes choose to use.