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NCAA to Tighten Up Marijuana Testing, But Reduce Penalties

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #769)
Drug War Issues

The NCAA is reducing the threshold for a positive result for marijuana, meaning that student athletes who smoke pot are more likely to be caught. At the same time, however, it is recommending reducing the penalty for those testing positive for marijuana.

NCAA game, North Carolina v. Michigan State, 2005 (courtesy Haaron755 on
The testing threshold will drop from 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood to five nanograms in order to "more accurately identify usage among student athletes," the group's Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport announced last Friday.

The lower marijuana threshold will go into effect on August 1 and would require a season-long suspension from athletic activities, the same penalty for those athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs. The CSMAS is recommending that the penalty for positive marijuana tests be lowered to a half-season suspension because it doesn't consider the herb to be a performance-enhancing drug, but that change won't come into effect until August 2014.

That means the NCAA could see a spike in one-year suspensions for pot as the new, tighter threshold goes into effect, but the move to reduce penalties lags behind.

CSMAS explained that marijuana had not been part of athletic drug testing until after some Olympic snow boarders tested positive for it after the 1998 games and embarrassed Olympic officials:

"At that time, there was no penalty for a positive marijuana test, but many in the Olympic family were embarrassed about the test results. This led to placing marijuana on the in-competition list of banned drugs," the panel said on its web site. "Many scientists and clinicians have debated whether marijuana is truly performance enhancing. Indeed, John Fahey, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, recently acknowledged that many scientists believe that the current marijuana criteria need to be amended, and he further stated that this matter will be considered in a review process."

If marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, why should athletes be penalized for using it? CSMAS is glad you asked:

"The World Anti-Doping Agency lists three reasons for drug testing in sport: (1) to prevent cheating through the use of performance-enhancing substances and methods; (2) to deter athletes from ingesting substances that may harm the athlete’s health; and (3) to deter athletes from ingesting substances or engaging in doping methods that are contrary to the spirit of sport," the group explained. "Whereas the CSMAS rightly focused on the fact that marijuana and other street drugs are not performance enhancing, the committee also recognizes that the universe of sport is special, and the student-athlete is obliged to embrace the spirit of sport. We do not believe that student-athletes should be ingesting marijuana and other street drugs, and we believe that a combination of penalties coupled with behavioral intervention is the most balanced approach to this issue."

And does this mean an athlete who smoked a joint a month before the big bowl game could test positive for marijuana and face penalties from the NCAA?

"Yes," said CSMAS.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


mexweedi (not verified)

"to deter athletes from ingesting substances that may harm the athlete’s health" -- meaning a toke of ganja.

The NCAA makes more money off football than any other sport; someone please do the research and count up the number of HEAD CONCUSSIONS which have resulted in lifelong disablement, dementia and premature death.

How does their football program (and other sports) pay off?  By attracting MENTALLY ILL ticketbuyers who sit like stones ("stoned"?) WATCHING OTHER GUYS PLAY BALL, while drinking beer etc. to get in a frame of mind where the violence on the field is even more "entertaining".   Classic BUY-PULLERism-- you buys the tickets, you pulls for the home team.  Go My School, BEAT Their School.  DEPRESSION: sit watching; MANIA: experienced vicariously from what the gladiators do.

Anyone who wants cannabis liberation, consider BOYCOTTING:

"school" sports, pro sports, any sports designed for a couple dozen guys to do it all while thousands sit;

Alcohol, especially any beer brand that sponsors spectator sports (if you like beer make your own, DON'T GIVE THEM ANY MONEY)

TELEVISION -- depressed idle hands while eyes watch the mania-- there's INTERESTING stuff to do in the workshop or garden while listening to Johannes BRAHMS on your headphone radio.

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 10:30pm Permalink
bobby day (not verified)

every one on all teams should smoke so then they are all sticking together .solidarity would get rid of these nefarious practices

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:38am Permalink
acb (not verified)

Yet another lost opportunity to conduct some real-world and scientific tests.

Surely if the results obviously showed cannabis consumers doing worse, NIDA,, ONDCP, DEA and all the other loonies would STFU and not encourage the NCAA to increase their Parts Per Billion ratio.

So I guess one could say that NIDA,, ONDCP, the DEA, FBI, and CIA are all SENDING THE MESSAGE that marijuana is so great for you it increases your performance!


Brain injuries? Tough crap, don't use that marijuana stuff we patented for just such a use.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:47pm Permalink
Paul McKannon (not verified)

I get mine from a garden. Would that be alright then?

Mon, 02/04/2013 - 8:12am Permalink
Paul McKannon (not verified)

in their mind would include sucking down some brewskies after the game and accept support from the alcohol industry with their big advertising bucks. So bottoms up dude! But don't you dare take a toke of Mother Nature because that's not in the spirit of sport. Freakn jocks.

Mon, 02/04/2013 - 8:20am Permalink
Anonymous4864563486 (not verified)

In my opinion, if you have a medical marijuana card, you should be able to smoke and take drug tests and they just waive through the THC. Its a decriminalized medicinal drug. The NCAA should treat it like one. Someday, I'd like to go to a grocery store and see a cannabis section, I know it will be along time before that happens but a stoner can dream right?

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 4:29am Permalink

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