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Rick Zamperin: Despite the legalization of marijuana, weed and the Olympics still don’t mix

Olivier Niggli, world Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Director General, delivers his speech during the opening day of the 2019 WADA annual symposium, at the Swiss Tech Convention Center, in Lausanne, Switzerland, 13 March 2019. EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT

Will the next Olympics be the first of a new era for athletes?

Sports Climbing is going to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, but while that may be all fine and dandy, I’m referring to a different kind of ‘high.’

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A nonprofit organization called Athletes for Care, which lists more than 150 athletes as members such as boxer Mike Tyson and cyclist Floyd Landis, has released an open letter to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), asking it to remove marijuana from its banned substance list.

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The letter says cannabis and THC do not meet WADA requirements – potential to enhance performance, presenting a health risk and violating the spirit of the sport – for a banned substance.

Athletes for Care has also launched an open petition on Change.org to express support for the effort.

Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada last October, and is legal in some U.S. states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington).

Pot, however, is still banned by North America’s pro sports leagues the NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball.

In 2017, the most recent annual testing figures released by WADA, there were 154 positive tests for THC.

READ MORE: World’s top-ranked bridge player suspended for doping

The Olympics is a huge money maker, and you can bet that some major sponsors would pull their financial commitments off the table if athletes were allowed to use marijuana.

Legalization and decriminalization has made cannabis more socially acceptable but it still carries a stigma and stereotype that I don’t think the Olympic movement wants to tackle just yet.

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