By: Braeden Jones
When Canada legalizes cannabis, Canadian athletes of all levels—including those vying for or competing in the Canada Games—will still have to be careful not to contravene anti-doping rules.
Glen Bergeron, who teaches kinesiology and applied health at the University of Winnipeg, is part of an ad hoc committee with the Canadian Centre of Ethics and Sport “discussing this issue at the national level.”
“The issue is that cannabis is a banned substance on the international banned substance list,” Bergeron said. “We need to be able to educate these athletes that it may be legal to use, but it’s still regarded as a banned substance.”
Along with representatives from U-Sports, the community colleges' athletic association and the four sport medicine councils of Western Canada, Bergeron said he’s been working on developing an “educational process” to ensure athletes understand things like allowable THC thresholds and latency.
“For instance, recently the World Anti-Doping Agency has actually increased the threshold of cannabis you can have in your system, to basically 10 times what it was a few years ago,” he explained.
Before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, thresholds were increased to 150 nanograms per millilitre from just 15 nanograms.
Bergeron said that bodes well for athletes from Canada who could feasibly use marijuana outside of competition without facing repercussions come competition time.
Not to say they should, as Bergeron said it’s more likely to “deteriorate performance” than enhance it—which is why Canada has lobbied for it to be removed as a banned substance—which is something else he said will be communicated to athletes.
Currently, Canada Games athletes are tested for the same banned substances as Canada’s national teams, including cannabis.
“It’s equally important they follow the anti-doping guidelines,” Bergeron said.
He believes it’s incumbent on sport organizations from coast-to-coast to make sure all of their athletes understand their responsibility with the drug.
“There’s a fair amount of work that needs to be done in the next few months with this (ad hoc) committee to put forward a national message, and a message appropriate in each province,” he said.
The group crafting that messaging has been meeting regularly for months, and hopes to have something drafted and ready for consultation by September.
“Then, obviously by the time cannabis is legalized, we want to have a strong educational campaign prepared,” Bergeron said.