NCAA Ease Rules Testing for Cannabis Use Among Athletes
Under the new NCAA penalty structure, the first positive test of a student-athlete would result in no loss of eligibility if the school initiates a management plan for the student.
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NCAA Eases Cannabis Testing Rule For Student-Athletes

Under the new NCAA penalty structure, the first positive test of a student-athlete would result in no loss of eligibility if the school initiates a management plan for the student.
Reform

NCAA Eases Cannabis Testing Rule For Student-Athletes

PUBLISHED
Mar 03, 2022
read time 3 MIN
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Last week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) stated that it is relaxing its cannabis policy for college athletes. The organization, a general legislative and administrative authority for intercollegiate athletics, also recommended more lenient punishments for positive cases.

The decision to ease cannabinoid testing policies for student-athletes came after a meeting held by a branch of NCAA called the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS). During the meeting, the committee agreed to raise the quantity of THC required to constitute a positive test. 

CSMAS announced that the new regulations are effective immediately and apply to drug tests administered from as far as fall 2021. According to the NCAA, the committee adjusted the THC levels to align with new rules established by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the global agency that handles drug testing in athletics.

Furthermore, any future alterations to the new NCAA regulations may occur in response to WADA changes and remain subject to CSMAS review and approval. 

Doctor Brian Hainline, the chief medical officer at NCAA, explained in a statement that the adjustment is consistent with feedback from members of the committee calling for better support and education for student-athletes. 

He continued to point out that although marijuana is not a performance-enhancing substance. There is a need to engage student-athletes regarding substance use prevention and provide guidance where necessary, especially in a society with rapidly evolving public health and cultural views about cannabis use.

Marijuana is becoming more popular among communities in the United States, with more than 30 states legalizing the substance either for medical or recreational uses. Consequently, domestic sporting leagues have had to update their drug testing rules to accommodate this widespread support for cannabis.

For instance, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced last year that it would not randomly test athletes for cannabis during the 2021-2022 season.

Even so, there have been numerous calls for sporting authorities to ease the grip on cannabis testing for athletes. Most recently, marijuana testing has been a matter of intense discussion after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspended US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from the Tokyo Olympics upon testing positive for cannabis.

Besides raising the THC threshold, CSMAS also recommended that all three divisions of the NCAA revise the current penalty structure for student-athletes who test positive for cannabis. Since drug-testing penalties are legislated under NCAA bylaws, each division would have to adopt new regulations separately before the organization can make changes. 

Under the new NCAA penalty structure, the first positive test of a student-athlete would result in no loss of eligibility if the school initiates a management plan for the student. The previous law dictated that one positive test for marijuana would mean an NCAA athlete would immediately miss 50 percent of a regular season.

For a second positive cannabis test, the new penalty system will withhold a student-athlete from 25 percent of the season if they did not comply with the previous management plan. Still, if the athlete is compliant, there would be no loss of eligibility if the school provides additional management and education. 

If a student-athlete tests positive for marijuana the third time, the new penalty program dictates that an NCAA athlete must be withheld from half of the regular-season contests if they were not compliant with the previous management plan. 

The adjustments to the NCAA drug-testing program come after careful consideration and extensive discussions on handling marijuana use within the sports industry. While it’s still unclear whether athletes will ever be free to use their smoking pipes without repercussions, there’s no denying that governing bodies are making an effort to accommodate all opinions on the matter.

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