In a significant shift in policy, an NCAA panel has recommended that marijuana be removed from the list of banned substances for athletes, suggesting that the focus of testing should be solely on performance-enhancing drugs.
In a proposal made public on Friday, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports urges cessation of cannabis tests at championship events until a final decision is taken, anticipated in the coming fall.
NCAA Considers Major Policy Shift
The proposed move marks a dramatic shift for the NCAA, which has been carrying out drug testing at its championship events since its inception in 1986. Notwithstanding, the suggested amendment would require the approval of all three NCAA divisions for it to be affected.
Division II and III administrators had previously appealed to the committee to investigate the issue. This recommendation comes against the backdrop of an evolving national landscape, with an increasing number of U.S. states sanctioning the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Earlier this year, the committee revised the acceptable THC threshold for a positive test, simultaneously suggesting a penalty modification for athletes. The limit for THC — the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana — was raised from 35 to 150 nanograms per milliliter, aligning with the standard set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
In December last year, the committee stated that marijuana and its derivatives do not enhance performance. Instead, they suggested focusing on the potential risks associated with marijuana use and the importance of reducing its harm and consumption.
They also advocated for utilizing test results to identify and address "problematic" cannabis use among athletes and proposed providing schools with additional guidelines on marijuana. On a related note, the committee proposed setting a trace level for the hormone GW1516 at 0.1 nanograms per milliliter.
This aims to prevent athletes from being ruled ineligible due to accidental ingestion of the substance from contaminated supplements. Initially developed for diabetes treatment but discontinued in 2007, GW1516 has been associated with positive doping tests, particularly in endurance sports.