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The World Anti-Doping Agency Will Review Its Policy on Weed

The review may be a response to the fallout from track star Sha'Carri Richardson's ban from the Olympics.

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Last summer, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made international headlines by banning U.S. track star Sha'Carri Richardson from the Olympics after she tested positive for cannabis. Now the agency says it will review its policy on the use of cannabis by athletes.

The agency did not explicitly say that what happened to Richardson led to the review. But, in a statement, WADA admitted that the review was a response to "requests from a number of stakeholders" in the international athletic community.

Richardson tested positive for cannabis in a test given after she made the Olympic team at the U.S. trials. She said she used marijuana to help cope with the death of her mother. Other athletes, such as Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, came out in support of Richardson. Medical experts also noted that no scientific study supports the idea that cannabis helps athletic performance

Related: Amazon decided to hire marijuana users as deliverers and eliminate anti-doping for employees


Medical experts from around the world recommended the review

Officially, the decision to review banning cannabis came from the List Expert Advisory Group, a committee of doctors and medical experts worldwide who advise the WADA executive council on what drugs to include on the banned list.

In a statement on the decision, the WADA said cannabis will get reviewed in 2022. Because of how the process works, that also means cannabis will remain banned throughout 2022.

But it was the reaction to Richardson's 30-day ban that likely prompted the review. Many pointed out that marijuana is legal in many places worldwide - and accessible by about 40 percent of Americans. 

Also, while it is almost expected for Mahomes and other athletes to point out the ridiculous nature of the ban, it's another when even medical professionals question the validity of the cannabis ban.

Related: Sha'Carri Richardson Has No Reason to Apologize

Experts have questioned how cannabis is a "performance-enhancing drug."

Cannabis has many medical benefits, but enhancing an athlete's performance in the field does not appear to be one of them.

Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic told NPR that ""I didn't think the evidence base for marijuana would be particularly strong. But as I looked at the papers yesterday, I was surprised at how weak it is."

A 2018 study led by researchers in Canada on the impact of cannabis on elite athletes concluded: "Although cannabis use is more prevalent in some athletes engaged in high-risk sports, there is no direct evidence of performance-enhancing effects in athletes."

Even Sebastian Coe, an Olympic gold winner and now head of World Athletics, told France 24 that "It's not an unreasonable moment to have a review. It's sensible -- nothing is set in stone. You adapt and occasionally reassess."

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