THC and doping - its own variant of repression

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THC consumption is the most common reason for a doping ban in Switzerland. Excuse me? Don't they always say that smoking pot makes you lax and passive? And yet THC is on the doping list. We summarize the topic of doping with THC in our article.

What does doping mean?

In 1952, the German Sports Physicians' Association attempted a definition of the term “doping”: taking a drug with the intention of improving performance during a competition was considered doping. However, proving the intention was difficult. In the 1960s, the phenomenon of doping became widespread and the International Olympic Committee established a medical commission to intensify the fight against doping. An actual definition was bypassed, because one is also quite difficult to find. Instead, they made it simple and banned certain substances and methods. These were then “doping,” whether or not they were performance-enhancing was ultimately irrelevant. The “List of Prohibited Substances and Methods (Doping List)” lists all prohibited substances and methods in a binding manner. It is up to the athletes to ensure that they do not commit any violations of this list.

Is it possible to dope with THC?

While a banned substance should medically have the potential to enhance performance, or the use of the substance should pose a health risk, or the substance should violate the “spirit of sport” in order to be added to the doping list. Of course, that's pretty vague… Especially with THC. So it says in the documents of “Cannabis is capable of indirectly enhancing performance by having a mild sedative effect in low doses. In a dangerous sport, the consumption of small amounts can cause a slight disinhibition, so that the willingness to take risks increases. In most sports, however, cannabis tends to have a performance-inhibiting effect, as it impairs coordination skills and can reduce responsiveness. Thus, it does not lead to direct physical performance enhancement.” One can hardly express oneself more winding and more contradictory! In any case, one thing is clear: THC residues in urine during a competition are considered doping.

When is THC doping given?

For a doping case, simply a prohibited fact must be fulfilled: presence of a prohibited substance or degradation products thereof, refusal of a doping control, trafficking in prohibited substances, etc. In the case of THC consumption, a ban on all cannabinoids (i.e. not only THC) in all sports during competitions has been in force since 1.1.2004. For this, a limit value in urine of 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood (measured as carboxy-THC) applies. This limit is quite low, normal urine tests have a cut-off of 50 nanograms. This also puts the ban “only in competition” into perspective: Since THC degradation products can be detected in urine for a very long time after the last consumption (days in the case of very infrequent consumption, weeks in the case of occasional consumption, months in the case of regular consumption), you have to stop using THC some time before the competition if you don't want to be caught positive in a doping control.

How widespread is THC doping?

In a graph of the Federal Office of Sport one sees until 1999 still no violations because of cannabis. For 2000 to 2006 (i.e. seven years), around 36% of all doping cases are attributed to THC. This makes THC the most important reason for a positive doping test in Switzerland. Of a total of 111 positive doping cases in these seven years, this corresponds to 40 cases due to THC consumption. Stimulants and anabolic steroids then follow in second and third place, with 18% and 17% respectively. So together they have fewer cases than THC alone…. Internationally, THC is not quite as important in doping - here anabolic steroids are still in first place, and by a large margin. But since 2003 THC “doping” is also punished and has risen in recent years from just under 400 to about 600 cases per year. In 2006, it is in third place (after anabolic steroids and beta-2 antagonists). Continued on page 6

How does a doping control work?

A Control Person shall inform the Athlete of the time and nature of the Control. A trusted person of the athlete may come along to the doping control. Both are identified at the doping control station with their ID cards. Then the control person explains the procedure. In the control room, the athlete to be tested chooses one of two urine cups. He then has to give at least 85 milliliters of urine under the eyes of the controller. An A and a B sample will then be prepared from this (orange and blue labels respectively). The athlete may also indicate the intake of any medication prescribed by a doctor that he has consumed in the last 48 hours. Then he must sign the protocol, as well as the person of trust and the controller. The sample is packaged and sent to the laboratory, where the A sample is then analyzed. At, under the title “Control procedure”, there is a very nicely drawn overview of the procedure for a urine control. In twelve steps, it shows exactly how a professional urine sample is taken. This is not only interesting for athletes, but generally for everyone who could be subjected to a urine control. By the way: Up to now, only urine tests have been carried out. But in the future, blood tests will probably also be carried out to a greater extent.

Effects of THC doping?

The Disciplinary Chamber for Doping Cases must decide on sanctions after a positive doping test. These sanctions can look like this:

  • Removal from the ranking list and forfeiture of any titles, medals, points and prizes won.
  • Suspension of six (or sometimes eight) months

(Actually, the first ban would be two years, the second violation the ban is for life. However, if one can prove that the substance was not taken to enhance performance, a warning with reprimand can be given the first time, possibly with a ban of up to one year, then on the second violation up to two years ban can be given, and on the third violation there is a life ban).

  • Payment of positive A sample, 333.50 francs
  • Payment of the costs of the proceedings, 200 francs

But that is only one part: very often, athletes who test positive for THC lose their employment contract with their sports club. This may end their career altogether.

A special absurd game of repression

It seems strange that such a fuss is made about THC consumption in sports. Beer brewers sponsor sports events and caffeine is allowed in sports - but THC is a doping agent. The general mood that smoking pot is something naughty is probably also having an effect on sports. After all, sports want to be pure. Only the will to perform and endurance are supposed to determine victory and defeat. In the process, other limits may well be crossed: Those who harm themselves with sport, through injuries and wear and tear, are not considered indecent or even illegal. Top-level sport in particular produces many athletes who have suffered serious injuries. An example from Donghua Li, former Swiss artistic gymnast and today employee of Swiss Olympics, from an article in the NZZ am Sonntag of 29.6.2008: “I suffered serious injuries three times in my career, each time almost forcing me to give up. At 16, I lost my left kidney in a sports accident, and my spleen was ruptured several times (…) When I was back at my sporting peak two years later, I tore both Achilles tendons in a new accident. (…) then I fell from the parallel bars, almost broke my neck and just wanted to die.” Such behavior is seen as a role model for our youth - whoever possibly harms himself a little with THC consumption is considered a criminal. Such an evaluation is simply perverse.

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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