‘The onus is on the athlete’: Marijuana legalization doesn’t change anything in Canadian sports

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

While Canadians may be able to smoke pot on the sidewalk in two weeks’ time, the rules won’t be changing for athletes.

Darek Symonowicz, a Canadian Paralympic volleyball player, told CTV News Toronto that athletes are responsible for knowing what substances are banned from competition and from training.

“Something that is legal or not legal in the general population doesn’t really necessarily impact us as athletes,” he told CTV News Toronto. “We have a banned substance list that we have to adhere to.”

“Marijuana becoming legal in a couple weeks doesn’t really change anything for us,” he said.

According to Doug Richards, the chief medical officer for Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, cannabis remains a banned substance for all Olympic and Paralympic sports, as well as university and college sports in Canada.

Athletes competing in these arenas must adhere to criteria outlined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). To become banned under WADA, a substance must hit two of the following criteria: It must enhance performance, cause harm to the health of an athlete, or violate the spirit of sport.

“I guess it rings the bell on number two and three,” Richards said.

In 2013, WADA increased their threshold for cannabis consumption in order to prevent athletes from being penalized for second-hand consumption. But, Doug MacQuarrie, the chief operating officer for the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, says that it takes a long time for cannabis to leave the body, which complicates things for athletes.

“They may not have used it on game day, but if the threshold in their body is still in excess, then it’s going to trigger the positive test,” he said.

At the 1998 Winter Olympics, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was almost stripped of a gold medal after testing positive for cannabis, which he said he had consumed second-hand at a party before the games.

“I won the medal, it was the best moment of my life. I got the news that I tested positive; that was the worst moment of my life,” he said at the time.

Symonowicz said that while coaches and trainers can offer direction on what substances to avoid, the onus is on the athlete to ensure they are clean on game day.

“If we are in a competition and we get tested and something comes back as being prohibited that we are using, the onus is on us. It doesn’t matter if a doctor or a therapist told you that it was safe. If you didn’t do your research, it’s your fault,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the responsibility comes down to the athlete.”

-With files from CTV News Toronto’s Sean Leathong

 

Story by: CTV News

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