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Why are Cannabinoids Still Banned by Athletics Organizations?

The 2021 Summer Olympics is missing something very important, Sha’Carri Richardson. Although Cannabis is currently legal in 19 states, allowed medically in 37 states, and awaiting federal legalization which could come from a new bill being drafted in the senate this month, many athletics organizations still consider it a banned substance. This is a fact that recently sparked much debate as track star Sha’Carri Richardson’s first place win in the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials was nullified due to a positive test (for THC). She was also given a one month suspension which took her out of the event at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo under a rule that seems to set us back over a hundred years.

In the early 1900s, the United States saw increased restrictions against Cannabis and an increase in propaganda aimed at pushing prohibition. Some common theories around this stigma against the plant suggest that it was based on rising racial tensions at the time. Use of the plant was largely associated with Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, jazz musicians, and lower income populations. It eventually led to the classification of Cannabis in 1970 as a controlled substance not allowed for any purpose.

Of course the many purposes and potential uses of the plant are well known, and the stigma against Cannabis is so last century. Almost an entire decade ago, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize it for recreational use in 2012. Since then, more and more people are recognizing the benefits of Cannabis and incorporating it into their wellness routines.

The benefits come from supporting the EndoCannabinoid System in the body naturally with Cannabinoids from the plant, much like other nutrients supplied by plants and foods provide support for daily function. While Cannabinoids can be an important part of recovery and self-care for Olympic athletes like Sha’Carri Richardson, it seems unreasonable to label them as performance-enhancing and lump them into the same category as things like steroids and growth hormones.

What is the Criteria for Banning Substances?

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a substance is banned if it meets two of three criteria: if it enhances performance, poses a health risk, or otherwise “violates the spirit of the sport”. All natural and synthetic Cannabinoids are currently prohibited according to the agency, and the WADA rules apply to all Olympic sports.

In defense of the decision, the agency claimed that Cannabinoids could potentially be performance enhancing although there is definite lack of research to specifically support that claim. WADA also said that they could pose a health risk by slowing reaction times or impairing the ability to make decisions, and further that they violated the spirit of the sport by setting a bad example for young athletes. All statements that imply the old stigma of the 1900s is lingering and new research is needed to prompt them to revisit the regulation.

The rule, as listed on the International Standard Prohibited List, specifically calls out the Cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as banned, however, does mark the Cannabinoid Cannabidiol (CBD) as an exception. It does also include all Cannabinoids in general without mentioning any others in particular.

What is THC?

THC is the most well known of the over one hundred Cannabinoids that are produced by Cannabis plants, probably because it is the one that in larger amounts can produce a notable psychoactive effect. This is because it binds directly to CB1 receptors in the brain that are part of a larger EndoCannabinoid System.

It appears to have a similar effect to Anandamide, an Endocannabinoid naturally produced by the body. While it does have several potential therapeutic benefits, when taken in higher amounts relative to a person’s individual tolerance it has been known to cause increased heart rate, impaired coordination, and slower reaction times.

A Significant Distinction Between Hemp and Marijuana

There are lots of different varieties, or strains, of Cannabis plants that are all part of the same Cannabaceae family, the same genus Cannabis, and are subcategories of the same three species Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Much like tomatoes are bred for different traits that make them roma or cherry or beefsteak, Cannabis is bred to create strains with slight variations and different purposes.

Why is this important to know? Because not all Cannabis plants produce high amounts of THC. Legally, any varieties that produce more than 0.3% THC are currently considered marijuana and any varieties producing less than 0.3% THC are considered hemp. This separation allows for hemp and marijuana to be regulated differently. CBD, which is allowed under the WADA rule, is produced both by plants that are high in THC (marijuana) and by plants low in THC (hemp).

So, the Cannabis plants and products that athletes might be using could contain high amounts of THC or little to none.

How Can Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil Benefit Athletes?

One way that CBD rich Hemp Oil may be incredibly beneficial to high performance athletes is by helping them to manage pain and inflammation sustained during their rigorous training schedules. Studies have shown that it can be a safe alternative, having generally no side effects while supporting the body’s pain and inflammation response.

Hemp Oil can go even further to aid athletes in the recovery process by promoting a more relaxed state for better sleep and less stress during down time. It has been linked to decreased cortisol levels, which are typically higher in those experiencing anxiety or poor sleep.

Overall improvement in mental well-being and ability to focus could also be a game changer coming from a natural supplement like a Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil. Athletes performing at such high levels and in the Olympic spotlight are under an extreme amount of pressure with the world watching to see how they will handle it.

Full-Spectrum Defined

A true Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil means that all of the naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients in the hemp plant are reflected in the finished Hemp Oil product. Some extraction methods leave behind some of the beneficial compounds, while others intentionally use chemical processes to remove some or all but one compound and these would be considered broad spectrum or isolate.

Typically, a true Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil includes trace amounts (less than 0.3%) of THC as well. It’s generally not enough to elicit a psychoactive effect or “high” feeling, but is enough to create an Entourage Effect of all of the compounds working together in the body. When combined together, all of the Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and other phytonutrients have a greater overall effect than any one would have alone.

While it’s debatable whether or not high amounts of THC could have performance enhancing or potentially risky outcomes, if an athlete is taking a product that contains just trace amounts of THC, it almost certainly would not. But, would those trace amounts still cause a failed test?

How Long Do Cannabinoids Stay in the Body?

Even though the effects of the cannabinoids may have long since worn off, they could still be detectable in a test depending on the type and sensitivity of the test. Some sources suggest that it could take days, weeks, or even months for cannabinoids to clear the body depending on several factors such as the frequency and amount consumed, the amount of body fat, and the individual metabolism.

According to WADA, urine and blood samples are used to test athletes prior to competition. THC and other cannabinoids can show up in urine for 3-30 days, while blood tests can only detect it for a few hours. The tests can detect relatively small amounts of the compounds.

It would be pretty difficult to determine how much of an effect an athlete would be experiencing based on the amount detected by the test and time it takes for the compounds to become undetectable. Hopefully with more research, it can be decided that Cannabinoids are not performance enhancing by definition and pose no risk to athletes so that they do not have to be tested for at all. As far as the third WADA criteria regarding the spirit of the sport, it seems more subjective and likely to change with the shifting perspectives and wide acceptance of Cannabis.

The Importance of Self-Care for Athletes

If there’s one pearl of wisdom that has been gained from the 2021 Olympic Games, it’s that athletes, even the best ones in the world, are still human. It’s easy to see their incredible accomplishments and hold them to a different standard of expectations. When gymnastics great Simone Biles pulled out of the all-around competition in the games to focus on her mental health, fans were shocked. Many quickly realized though that self-care is more important than risking serious injury just for a medal.

Self-care is the very reason that Sha’Carri Richards cited in her explanation following the failed test that took away her chance to compete in the 100 meter race at the Olympics. She had just learned of the passing of her mother and relied on Cannabis to help her process the intense emotions and cope with the loss.

If a Cannabinoid supplement, especially one like Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil can be a tool to support athletes not only with their mental well-being but also with physical recovery, they should be allowed to access it at any time leading up to competition without risk of breaking the antiquated WADA regulations.

A Quality Hemp Oil Supplement

Since the first legal sale of Cannabis in recent U.S. history when California became the first state to legalize it medically in 1996, it has become increasingly more available. Cut to 2021 and the market is booming, especially for hemp based products which are legal in all 50 states. With so many options, it’s important to consider what makes a quality choice.

It’s good to know where the hemp used to make the product is sourced and how it was grown. Synchronicity only used a proprietary genetic variety of hemp grown on our own sustainable farm in Colorado. This lends itself not only to better Cannabinoid content, but also consistency from batch to batch.

It also really matters how that hemp was processed. Most companies use harsh CO2 or other chemical extraction processes which damage the compounds and leave many behind in the plant. Synchronicity infuses organic coconut oil directly with the whole plant in small batches in a gentle process that naturally gets more of the beneficials out of the plant.

Synchronicity Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil products are available to order online and ship for free anywhere in the U.S., find them here.

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