August 23, 2006

Stamping out marijuana in sports

I don't get it:

The race directors for the Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York marathons -- collectively known as the World Marathon Majors -- aren't waiting to take action. The group said Tuesday it will impose lifetime bans at its races for any runner caught using a banned substance, including minor offenders for drugs such as marijuana.

I'm all for getting performance enhancing drugs out of sport, but marijuana just confuses the issue, because it isn't performance enhancing. What are they going to do next? Impose a ban on athletes who get on the turps the night before and still manage to get amongst the money?

One of the problems with performance enhancing substances in sport is that some of them are legally available (if sometimes restricted), because they have genuine medical applications. Like EPO, for example. It does seem that when significant doping is going on with the assistance of medical professionals, those same medical staff are often violating some regulations about appropriate dispensing of drugs. This gives anti-doping authorities a completely legitimate avenue to pursue athletes for breaking the civil laws of the country, as well as the specific regulations of the sport. (Still following me?) But, by and large, the converse is not true. Athletes who have broken laws unrelated to sport shouldn't be banned from the sport because of it.

Marijuana is precisely an example of confusing the relationship between general law, and the specific rules set up by private bodies governing sports about what aids and enhancements are acceptable in training and competition. This will not get me elected to public office in America (but believe me, there's other impediments to that so I don't care), but the criminalization of marijuana is in many ways a historical accident that does not reflect the harms the drug imposes on society. I'd be willing to bet [a six pack of beer] that under-age drinking causes more harm to the world than marijuana use. Under-age drinking, however, has a long, mostly happy, association with the fine sport of athletics. If they started banning people for that, we wouldn't have a sport left.

Posted by eroberts at August 23, 2006 11:11 AM