Even after two decades, athletes everywhere still remember Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, who became the sport’s first Olympic gold medal winner at the 1988 winter games in Japan, only to have it be stripped away by a positive marijuana test. After a few years, Michael Phelps became the poster child for stoners everywhere after the gold medalist admitted that a photo of him smoking at a party was legitimate. However now that marijuana is legal in over have the U.S. for both medical and recreational purposes, what is the newfound Olympic policy on marijuana, especially now as athletes gather in Rio this week for the 2016 Summer Games?
Fortunately, marijuana use within the Olympic world has progressed majorly since Rebagliati and Phelps, as a 2013 policy change by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) raised the limit of marijuana allowed in an athlete’s system to 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. What this means is that as long as an Olympian doesn’t show up to Brazil stoned, or smoke during the games, Olympic officials don’t care at all about how much they smoke on their down time. In 2013, Ben Nichols, a spokesman for WADA, told USA today that the updated policy was just intended to disqualify athletes who smoke right before or during the competition.
He made sure that everyone knows that the rules do not prohibit the athletes from using cannabis products outside the Olympics. “Our information suggests that many cases do not involve a game or event-day consumption. The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before the competition,” said Nichols.
Prior to this policy change, four athletes tested positive for THC right before the 2012 London Olympics. Although this is a very small percentage of the thousands of athletes the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USOC), the threshold did end up disqualifying one athlete, a wrestler named Stephany Lee. Interestingly enough, Marijuana has only been banned from the Olympics since 1999. In face, Rebagliati was stripped in 1998 after testing positive for cannabis, however, officials had to give the medal back after figuring out that pot was not actually a banned substance. Marijuana is now on the banned list due to its heath risk factors, performance enhancement capabilities, and it’s against the spirit of the sport.