CBD AND SPORT: PERMEATING THE MAINSTREAM

 

As CBD has permeated popular consciousness, athletes across the world have shared stories about how they use CBD and cannabis products as part of their training and recovery.

As sales and popularity soar, consumers and brands are pushing regulators to keep up with the industry. In January 2018, cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD) was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned substances.

WADA, led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is responsible for the World Anti-Doping Code which aims to harmonise anti-doping regulations in all sports and countries. It has been adopted by more than 600 sports organisations, including international sports federations, national anti-doping organisations, the IOC, and the International Paralympic Committee. Most importantly, it publishes an annual list of prohibited substances and methods that sportspersons are not allowed to take or use.

If you play sport professionally, contravening these regulations is a big deal. Depending on the sporting body, testing positive will result in anything between an official warning and an outright ban. In between these extremes, athletes could face substantial fines or suspension from competitions.

When your career is on the line, you tend to err on the side of caution.

sport and cannabis

Cannabis laws in the US are a changing patchwork. In a growing number of states it is legal for medical and adult use, yet at a federal level, it remains illegal. This makes it tricky for national sporting bodies to enact a policy that will suit all professional athletes - many of whom play in states where cannabis is legal. As a result, there are differing levels of leniency across the main sporting bodies with NFL, MBL, NHL and NBA having different levels of permitted THC. The MLB, NHL and UFC also recognise the advantages CBD can offer athletes as a recovery aid for intense training schedules and injuries.

Unfortunately, for NFL players guidelines for CBD are unclear, and players must remain cautious and avoid CBD products, in case they test positive for THC. Many doctors and former players are advocating for a more reasonable approach to cannabis-derived products. Super Bowl champion, Marvin Washington, recently made an appeal to the better senses of the regulatory bodies: "Would you rather guys use opiates — which are highly addictive and damaging to your body — or would you rather they use a plant that's natural, non-toxic, and healthy for you?"

In the UK on the other hand, CBD is currently treated as a dietary supplement, although its status is constantly evolving. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) operates a domestic testing programme, in compliance with the WADA International Standard for Testing.

rugby and cbd

As the RFU is WADA compliant this opens the door for Rugby Union athletes to take advantage of the benefits CBD has to offer. As injuries are common in rugby, it’s become particularly popular among professional players for sports recovery. It was through injuries that two top-flight rugby union players for the London-based European Champions, Saracens, discovered how useful CBD could be.

CBD worked so well for George Kruis and Dom Day that they started their own line of CBD sports recovery products - fourfive cbd. With multiple drug tests throughout the year, they were very focused on creating supplements that European athletes could use safely.

In a recent interview on the Cannabis Conversation podcast, they discussed how the company came into existence and how they identified a need for a line of trusted CBD products that top level athletes could take.

There’s definitely three or four people in each team using it, and that will grow with the amount of testing that goes into our products. We test on a number of different levels, including contaminants, which no other products - as far as we know - are doing,” Kruis explains. “That will give athletes the safety and reassurance that professional testing has gone into it. As a player who’s gonna get drug tested, you have to have clear cut proof that you are going to be alright.

We’re delighted to have George Kruis as a speaker at Cannabis Europa London this June, to explain further how valuable this cannabinoid can be for athletes such as himself. The existence of fourfive highlights the need for testing within CBD products, which up until now has few clear guidelines or regulations in the UK. The risk of such wildly varying quality of product seeping into the market has an impact beyond professional athletes. People with a medical need could be more susceptible to the impact of possible contaminants in untested CBD.

This 24-25 June, Cannabis Europa London will look to debate solutions to this problem and provide some insight into the emerging regulatory landscape within the CBD market.