Running and cannabis: does a joint help with training??

Doping sports and marijuana: run faster when stoned?

When the women’s 100-meter race starts in Tokyo at the Olympic Games, American star runner Sha’Carri Richardson will be missed. She had qualified with an outstanding running time, but was excluded from the Olympics by her own federation a short time later. Shortly after her much acclaimed victory at the elimination competitions in the USA, she had tested positive for the substance THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) contained in marijuana.

Many believe that marijuana enhances performance

The disqualification of the 100-meter runner was met with great dismay, and a debate ensued about the question: Does cannabis make runners faster at all?? Many recreational athletes around the world also joined in the discussion. Tips were exchanged in forums. Especially in the running scene this made waves. Many posts discussed how training with joint works best.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) classifies the drug as an illegal doping agent. But is there actually scientific evidence that consumption makes athletes run faster and become stronger? The answer is: not so far. In the medical world, many even suspect that the drug could reduce physical performance.

Nevertheless, the discrepancy between perception and reality seems to be large. According to a 2019 study, of 1161 athletes who used cannabis, a majority of about 70 percent still reported that the drug helped them sleep better and get over pain during training. Still an astonishing 60 percent said it calmed them down. In a study by the University of Colorado, 70 percent of subjects said they would turn to cannabis because the substance motivated them to exercise.

So marijuana is a harmless drug that gives runners a leg up? So a closer look at the studies is always worthwhile. Simple tests with competitive athletes have shown that after consuming marijuana, heart rate and blood pressure increase – so much so that athletic performance is noticeably hindered. The New York Times dealt intensively with the topic. In the U.S., marijuana use is now legal in many states. After reviewing numerous studies, they conclude: "All subsequent studies suggest that cannabis does not improve strength or endurance."

For many, cannabis is now considered a weak drug, comparable to alcohol. In addition, in recreational sports, the line where doping begins is not clearly defined. Smoking a joint is often considered a trivial offense. Yet the side effects are severe. Especially smoking cannabis can release numerous toxic and cancer-causing substances, according to experts. Cannabis users also inhale smoke longer, suggesting that lungs are more exposed to substances such as tar. The American Lung Association concludes: "Smoking marijuana clearly damages the lungs." As a runner, doing sport to be healthy is certainly something they don’t want to have to do.

Marijuana leaves traces in the brain

There is also clear evidence that marijuana limits the ability to make decisions. But if people are sensitive to it, or if the dose is high enough, it can quickly become a dangerous problem, for example, when crossing streets while running or in areas frequented by cars. The German Sport University in Cologne (DSHS) comes to the following conclusion: "However, due to the sedative (calming) effect of cannabis, an athlete can be more dangerous in dangerous sports (e.g., sports with a high blood pressure).B. downhill cycling) are more willing to take risks in competition, which may then be accompanied by a better competition result."

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But as risk-taking increases, so does the risk of accidents and injuries. In team sports, the DSHS even sees a danger for teammates. Because cannabis ensures that athletes have a "distance to the current game situation" and thus "accept a higher risk in duels". Moreover, cannabis causes a deterioration of coordination. Sha’Carri Richardson, by the way, after being found positive for doping, said that she used marijuana not to improve her performance, but to better cope with the death of her mother. This one had died shortly before the competition.

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