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World Anti-Doping Agency Keeps Cannabis Ban in Place

One year after announcing it was reconsidering the ban on cannabis use, the World Anti-Doping Agency will apparently keep that ban in force.

The Wall Street Journal, citing “people who have seen a draft copy of the list,” reported on Monday that the agency “appears set to keep cannabis on its list of prohibited substances for 2023, despite friction over American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension last year.”

Richardson was removed from the Tokyo Olympics team last summer after being tested positive for marijuana. The suspension came less than one month before the Tokyo Olympics began.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, as well as the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, all have cannabis listed as a banned substance.

The U.S. governing bodies say that cannabis is banned because it could potentially pose a health and safety risk to athletes, and that cannabis could be a performance-enhancing substance for some.

The outrage over Richardson’s suspension prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to reconsider the policy. Last September, the agency said it would take up a recommendation from its Prohibited List Expert Advisory Group and launch “a scientific review of the status of cannabis.”

One year later, the status quo seems to have prevailed.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that as “the deadline approaches to finalize the WADA 2023 prohibited list, however, there are strong indications that cannabis will remain prohibited,” with the Prohibited List Expert Advisory Group in favor of “keeping a ban in place, saying that based on the scientific evidence available, the drug meets the criteria for inclusion on the list.”

The following is an extract from the Journal, the advisory group “circulated a draft list for 2023 that still includes cannabis,” and that WADA “typically follows the advice.” But the Journal noted that the agency “emphasized that the list is still provisional until later this month.”

“The draft 2023 Prohibited List is still under consideration,” a WADA spokesman said in a statement, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. “WADA’s Executive Committee will be asked to approve the final version of the List during its 23 September meeting, with the List itself being published on or before 1 October and coming into force on 1 January.”

Richardson’s positive marijuana test came shortly after she won the 100m dash at the U.S Olympic trials. Richardson is now 22 and has accepted responsibility for her actions since the results of the test were revealed.

“I want to take responsibility for my actions,” Richardson said during an interview on the TodayShow at the moment. “I know what I did and what I’m not supposed to do. I know what I’m not allowed to do, and I still made that decision. Not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case but being in that position of my life and finding out something like that—something that I would say has impacted my life positively and negatively […] when it comes to dealing with the relationship with my mother—that definitely was a heavy topic on me.”

Richardson was supported by fellow athletes, legislators, and even the White House.

“It does stink,” then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview at the time. “I don’t think there’s a better definition of it. She has lost her mother; she’d gone through a tragedy and she’s also the fastest woman in the world—and I think she’s sending a message to a lot of little girls out there; you can do this. It’s obvious that the rules have been established. Perhaps we can look closely at them. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and their decisions must be respected. But it is sad.”