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NCAA's Cannabis Testing Changes Await Approval

2023

In a surprising move, the NCAA's Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports has proposed halting cannabis testing at championship events. This potential change marks a significant departure from the organization's long-standing practice of conducting drug tests since 1986. The committee's recommendation is currently under review, with a final decision expected this fall.

The proposal comes as the United States is witnessing a growing number of states legalizing medical or recreational marijuana use. Recognizing this shifting landscape, the committee believes it is time to reevaluate the role of cannabis testing in collegiate sports.

Earlier this year, the committee already made some adjustments to its policies. It increased the threshold for a positive THC test, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, from 35 to 150 nanograms per milliliter. This change aligns with the standards set by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Importantly, the committee emphasized that marijuana and its derivatives are not considered performance-enhancing substances.

Instead of focusing solely on penalties, the committee suggests adopting a more comprehensive approach. It encourages schools to view positive cannabis test results as an opportunity to identify and address potential issues related to problematic cannabis use. Additionally, the committee intends to provide schools with further guidelines on managing cannabis-related matters.

In a separate proposal, the committee also aims to set a trace level for the hormone GW1516 at 0.1 nanograms per milliliter. This threshold is designed to prevent athletes from inadvertently ingesting the substance through contaminated supplements. GW1516, initially developed for diabetes treatment but discontinued in 2007, has been associated with positive doping tests in endurance-related sports.

Before these proposed changes can take effect, the legislation must be introduced and approved by all three NCAA divisions. Administrators in Divisions II and III had already requested a thorough examination of the issue, leading to the current review process.

As the NCAA explores potential adjustments to its cannabis testing policies, athletes and stakeholders across the country are closely watching the outcome. With more states embracing marijuana legalization, the organization faces the challenge of striking the right balance between upholding competitive integrity and acknowledging evolving societal norms.

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