A new review published in the Journal of Cannabis Research has found that chronic cannabis use does not have a significant impact on the performance of athletes.
For years now, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has heavily penalizing athletes who use cannabis. You might remember the 2015 case of MMA’s Nick Diaz’s $165,000 fine and five-year suspension, or the 2019 case of Kelvin Gastelum’s five-month suspension from UFC.
In fact, previous research has also shown that up to 1 in 4 athletes has used cannabis in the past year, meaning that Nich and Kelvin aren’t solo-smokers.
Cannabis is said to have an ‘ergogenic’ effect, enhancing the performance of athletes and giving them an advantage. However, this belief is not based on scientific research.
Researchers from the Western Sydney University study disagreed that cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug, conducting a review of previous studies on cannabis use in athletes to prove it. Each study measured two factors: maximal oxygen uptake peak work capacity.
Maximum oxygen uptake (VO2Max) is a measure of how much oxygen a person can use during exercise while peak work capacity (PWC) is how much force an athlete can output.
Across the four studies, researchers found no difference between the VO2Max and PWC measurements of cannabis users and non-cannabis users. This shows that there is no current scientific proof that chronic cannabis use enhances the performance of athletes, challenging whether cannabis should be banned by WADA.
At the conclusion of the study, co-lead researcher Andrew Kramer pointed out that cannabis may be used as a treatment in athletes without impacting their sports, saying:
Evidence supports the use of cannabis and cannabinoid products for pain, recovery, sleep, and appetite-related applications.
Researchers also believe that cannabis could be an “ethical way” of supporting athletes through the psychological pressures of their job without impacting athletic performance.