In July 2021, the one-month suspension of Sha’Carri Richardson had the world talking. The American track sensation tested positive for cannabis and, as a result of her suspension, officially dropped out of the Olympics a few days later. She was favored to win the gold medal in the women’s 100 meter and, although she consumed cannabis in a state where it was legal (Oregon), cannabis, specifically tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is still considered an illegal substance in professional sports.
Some of the world’s best athletes use cannabis, and many use their platform to advocate for the use of medical cannabis in sports. Here are a few of the biggest cannabis advocates in professional sports.
Eugene Monroe - NFL
In March 2016, Eugene Monroe became the first active NFL player to advocate for using cannabis to treat sports-related injuries and chronic pain. In a highly publicized New York Times piece, he officially called on the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, to stop testing players for cannabis. Since his retirement in June 2016, he’s dedicated his time to raising awareness about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Per his website, Monroe is “calling for the NFL to remove marijuana from the banned substances list; fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE; and stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids.”
The Diaz Brothers - MMA
Nate and Nick Diaz are open with their cannabis use, and have been for at least a decade. To the surprise of many, Nate even openly vaped during a post-fight press conference in 2016, later claiming that he was vaping CBD. The MMA fighters have faced multiple fines and suspensions due to their cannabis use, and landed on Rolling Stone’s 2017 list of the “Biggest Stoners in Sports.” In a February 2016 interview with High Times, Nick said “If I’m at home and I’m training -- doing my same things every day -- then I’m definitely going to want to use cannabis. It’s gonna help.” You can read the full interview here.
Ross Rebagliati - Snowboarding
Snowboarding was first introduced as an Olympic sport in 1998, and Ross Rebagliati became the first gold medalist in the men’s slalom event. He also became the first medalist to have his medal revoked and then reinstated due to cannabis use. A drug test submitted by Rebagliati showed 17.8 ng/mL of THC, which was slightly higher than the 15 ng/mL threshold. His win was disqualified, but almost immediately reinstated after the Olympic Committee admitted that cannabis wasn’t included on their list of banned substances. His ordeal made headlines, and today he’s an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry. In 2013 he opened his own medical cannabis dispensary and branched into CBD edibles in 2015.
Floyd Landis - Cycling
Floyd Landis was thought to be the winner of the 2006 Tour de France. At the time, he would have been the third non-European winner in the event’s history, but the title was revoked when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Since then he’s been an outspoken advocate for medical cannabis and started Floyd’s of Leadville, a company that produces CBD products to ease pain and inflammation, in 2016. In an interview for Bicycling.com he said “The therapeutic uses of cannabis can’t be ignored. For years I relied on opioid pain relievers to treat my hip pain. With cannabis, I find that I can manage my pain and have a better quality of life. We need to give people a safer alternative.”
Amy Van Dyken - Swimming
Amy Van Dyken is a six-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer, and was the first American female athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympics game. Unfortunately, an ATV accident in 2014 severed her spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the waist down. After her accident she turned to CBD for relief, and told Civilized in 2018 that “I cannot live without it, and I will not live without it.” She uses CBD to manage neuropathic pain, and announced a partnership with Kannaway, a hemp lifestyle network, in 2018. Through the partnership she helps spread awareness about the benefits of CBD for athletes and those with an active lifestyle.
The Future of Cannabis in Sports
As you can see, medical cannabis advocacy in professional sports runs the gamut, from football and cycling to Olympic swimming. The disqualification of Sha’Carri Richardson has brought the World Anti-Doping Agency’s cannabis prohibition into question, with some experts saying that cannabis shouldn’t be banned for elite athletes. If you’d like to advocate for the legalization of cannabis in your state, here are some ways to help.