THC-testing strips title from another pro-athlete
Track & field athlete Tara Davis-Woodhall was stripped of her indoor national long-jumping title and barred from competition for one month following a positive THC test. The positive test came from a sample provided before competing in the 2023 USATF Indoor Championships in February, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced.
The one-month suspension from competition is the minimum required under the rules, and all competitive results from the date of sample collection are subject to forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes.
This isn’t the first time cannabis has affected an elite athlete’s ability to compete.
In 2021, sprinter and media sensation Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for THC in a sample provided for the Olympic Game Trials, resulting in a one-month suspension that took her off the roster for the Tokyo Olympics.
The USADA added in its statement about Richardson’s suspension that her period of ineligibility was reduced to the lowest possible time frame because “her use of cannabis occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, and because she successfully completed a counseling program regarding her use of cannabis.”
Richardson’s inability to compete in the Tokyo games elicited public outcry on the sprinter’s behalf, triggering a statement from USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart regarding testing for THC. He explained that despite the USADA’s desire to make a different choice regarding Richardson’s suspension, and two other athletes who tested positive for THC that year, the USADA must follow worldwide rules set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Tygart explained, “Even if we just ignored the rules, which would make us non-compliant and in violation of our USOPC and federal government agreements, WADA and World Athletics could appeal our decision. In the event of an appeal, Sha’Carri certainly would not receive less than the minimum one-month sanction, and she might receive more.”
Though WADA has debated keeping THC on the list of banned performance-enhancing drugs, the agency opted to continue the ban in an updated list released September 2022.
However, the USADA has permitted Ultimate Fighting Championship athletes to follow their own guidelines regarding cannabis. THC is tested for but not considered a sanctionable offense. In addition, many athletic organizations continue to lift restrictions on cannabis consumption.
As another athlete is stripped of titles and facing suspension in the U.S., where cannabis is broadly legalized, it is wise to note that these rules are set by a world organization and not by the USADA.
In the previously mentioned statement, Tygart concluded that, “Our hope is that sport and society focus on the core mental health issue going forward, which is how we find ways to help athletes with their pressures and traumas in a way where they do not feel they need to take a risk that may jeopardize their ability to compete and do what they love.”