Don't risk it
Testing positive for a recreational drug can result in a ban from all sport.
Recreational drugs are banned in sport during competition and if you use them, you’re taking a risk. If you’re tested and something like cannabis is found in your system, you could face serious sanctions.
The only way to 100% avoid a positive test is by not using.
What you need to know about recreational drugs:
- They are potentially harmful to your health and their use violates the spirit of sport.
- Cannabis and all its synthetic forms are prohibited in-competition.
- Other recreational drugs including cocaine, BZP, and amphetamines are prohibited in-competition.
- Cannabis and other drugs can be stored in the body for an extended period.
- Passive inhalation of cannabis or other drugs is unlikely to result in a positive test, but you should avoid situations where this might occur.
Cannabis in sport
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decides what substances are banned as WADA sets the Prohibited List, and cannabis has been on that list for a long time. Our role at DFSNZ is to influence WADA as to what goes on the list, or comes off it.
DFSNZ has been consistent in its annual submissions to WADA asking for cannabis to be removed from the Prohibited List. Our internal research, external advice and wider consultation with the medical and sporting community in New Zealand is that there is no evidence that cannabis is performance-enhancing.
In the past five years DFSNZ has established over 60 athlete doping rule violations in New Zealand. Five of these were related to recreational drugs: four for cannabis use and one for methamphetamine. So the number of athletes penalised for recreational drugs in NZ is low.
DFSNZ will continue to petition WADA to change its approach to recreational drugs, but in the meantime, athletes should avoid using cannabis as it’s currently prohibited in sport.
There is no simple answer for this. Different strains of cannabis have different concentrations of THC. This means that consuming the same amount of different strains can result in differing doses, and therefore different clearance times and different concentrations shown in a drug test.
THC is fat soluble, which means that it can be stored in the body for a long period of time and released slowly, although not consistently, depending on an individual’s metabolism.
Finally, frequency of use is another factor. Regular users will have longer clearance times than casual or infrequent users.
Cannabis contains substances called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a major cannabinoid and is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, however, it is only one many cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis – commonly referred to as cannabis without THC. CBD is used in a medical setting, assisting to alleviate multiple sclerosis pain and certain types of epilepsy. It does not have the intoxicating effects of THC and hence is not prohibited in-competition by WADA. Caution is required with cannabidiol goods as THC can be added in certain products.
As of 2018, WADA no longer lists CBD as a prohibited substance. We would like to remind athletes that CBD oil often still contains some concentration of the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Therefore, the use of CBD oil is at an athlete’s own risk.
Yes. Cannabis and all its synthetic forms are prohibited in-competition.
WADA requires that laboratories do not report and anti-doping organisations not pursue action against low concentrations of cannabis in an athlete’s sample. However, even with this threshold in place, there continue to be in-competition violations for cannabis each year. This threshold is not meant to permit frequent, habitual, or in-competition use.
Positive test results can occur through multiple cannabis products and methods other than smoking. Other methods of inhalation or ingestion can greatly influence results and can be detectable for long periods of time. Regular users of cannabis have much longer detection windows than users who consume occasionally.
As with all prohibited substances, athletes can avoid violations by abstaining from cannabis use during their athletic careers.
Passive inhalation of cannabis or other drugs is unlikely to result in a positive test.
Legality is a different issue to whether or not it is permitted in sport. DFSNZ complies with the World Anti-Doping Code and that includes the Prohibited List. Substances are included on the Prohibited List if they meet two of the three following criteria:
- use of the substance has the potential to enhance performance;
- use of the substance can cause harm to the health of the athlete; and
- use of the substance violates the spirit of sport.
The global anti-doping community has kept cannabis on the Prohibited List, so athletes should avoid using cannabis.
We have no position on the issue of cannabis legalisation in New Zealand. While cannabis remains prohibited in sport, we are required under the current rules to proceed with a case where a positive test for cannabis is received.
Other recreational drugs such as cocaine, heroin, BZP (Benzylpiperazine) and amphetamines are also prohibited in-competition.