Nov 11

Tip of the Month – October

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A Country Going to Pot

Implications of Legalization of Cannabis for Canadian Athletes

Canada became the second country to legalize cannabis on October 17, 2018 (after Uruguay in 2013). The question now arises: how is this going to impact Canadian athletes in terms of performance, potential health issues, travel to the US where cannabis is still illegal in the majority of States, and other countries? How is the IOC going to deal with this phenomenon as the drug is still on the banned list? According to SIRC (Canadian Sport Information Resource Centre, Ottawa) “legalization of cannabis will have significant implications on the Canadian sport system, ranging from doping policy, to athlete and staff safety, to risk management for organizations” (SIRC release, October 10, 2018).

Findings of British and Portuguese researchers show that there could be serious implications for ‘casual pot’ users as well as those who use pharmaceuticals containing cannabinoids (the chemical compound in the plant) – although their studies are based on mice.

According to their findings, mice exposed to cannabis had ‘significant’ mental impairments and difficulties distinguishing between familiar and new objects. Additionally, imagination tests revealed cannabis harmed the rodents brain regions responsible for learning and memory.

Dr. Neil Dawson, lead researcher from the Lancaster University in the UK says, “the work offers valuable new insight into the way long-term cannabinoid exposure negatively impacts the brain and the risk of developing mental health issues and memory problems.”

Dr. Ana Sebastião, University of Lisbon states, “Our work clearly shows prolonged cannabinoid intake does have a negative impact on brain function and memory.” Any lengthy exposure appeared to compound the problem as it also hindered the ability of those areas to communicate with one another.

In the face of the mounting complexity it is important to remember that in the world of Anti-doping in Sport the debate is not complicated – cannabis is still prohibited and on the IOC and WADA banned list!

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