The World Anti-Doping Agency recently published their 2018 list of prohibited substances and methods–and CBD is no longer included on the list.
This is a major move forward; sports have generally disallowed all forms of cannabis including the infamous case of Michael Phelps and a picture of him using a bong resulting in suspension from competition and loss of sponsorship. These new guidelines wouldn’t have helped Phelps avoid that suspension, however: THC and whole-plant marijuana are still on the list of prohibited substances provided by WADA.
Previous versions of the list of prohibited substances under the cannabinoids section included “Natural, e.g. cannabis, hashish and marijuana” as well as “Synthetic cannabinoids, e.g. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabimimetics.” This year’s list of prohibited substances includes one exception, “Cannabidiol.”
For those of you unaware, CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are compounds in the cannabis plant that interact with the human endocannabinoid system, which creates endocannabinoids to manage things like pain. There are more cannabinoids that we don’t understand, than cannabinoids we do. But when it comes to CBD, we have some clear ideas about it: it can help moderate THC intake, and it’s also associated with the healing benefits of the plant, while not being associated with the psychoactive effects of the plant when without THC.
This is huge for athletes; CBD’s therapeutic effects could be beneficial as part of a fairly standard wellness or therapeutic regimen. Research has shown it’s ability to assist with seizure disorders, and more has come out suggesting that CBD can help relieve pain and has neuroprotective properties, as well as a slew of additional research and anecdotal evidence suggesting it’s usefulness for a variety of issues.
It’s important to note that THC is still considered to be prohibited under the 2018 WADA regulations, which will go into effect on January 1st. Some CBD products still contain traces of THC, and athletes should be careful to make sure any CBD products they’re using are THC-free if they want to be compliant.