Don't risk it
Testing positive for a recreational drug can result in a ban from all sport.
Recreational drugs are banned in sport in-competition*. If you use recreational drugs, you're taking a risk.
Recreational drugs include cannabis, amphetamines, BZP, MDMA, heroin and cocaine. Some of these, for example cannabis, can stay in your system for a long time after you take them. The only way to 100% avoid a positive test is by not using.
*In-competition means from 11.59pm on the day before your competition to the end of your competition and its sample collection process.
Substances of abuse
In 2021, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recognised that some substances are “frequently abused in society outside the context of sport” and added the Substances of Abuse category to the Prohibited List.
All four substances in this category – THC (cannabis), MDMA, heroin and cocaine - remain banned in sport in-competition. However, athletes who test positive for a Substance of Abuse may be eligible for a reduced sanction if they can prove that they took the substance out-of-competition and not to enhance sporting performance.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decides what substances are banned as WADA sets the Prohibited List. Cannabis has been on that list for a long time.
Our role is to influence WADA as to what goes on the list, or comes off it. We have been consistent in our annual submissions to WADA asking for cannabis to be removed from the Prohibited List. Our internal research, external advice and wider consultation with the medical and sporting community in Aotearoa New Zealand has provided no evidence that cannabis is performance-enhancing.
The number of athletes penalised for using recreational drugs is low. In the past five years we have established over 30 anti-doping rule violations in New Zealand. Five of these were related to recreational drugs: three for cannabis use, one for MDMA and one for methamphetamine.
We will continue to petition WADA to change its approach to recreational drugs, but, in the meantime, athletes should avoid using cannabis as remains banned in sport.
There is no simple answer for this. Different strains of cannabis have different concentrations of THC. This means that consuming the same amount of different strains can result in differing doses, and therefore different clearance times and different concentrations shown in a drug test.
THC is fat soluble, which means that it can be stored in the body for a long period of time and released slowly, although not consistently, depending on an individual’s metabolism.
Finally, frequency of use is another factor. Regular users will have longer clearance times than casual or infrequent users.
Cannabis contains substances called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a major cannabinoid and is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, however, it is only one many cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis – commonly referred to as cannabis without THC. CBD is used in a medical setting, assisting to alleviate multiple sclerosis pain and certain types of epilepsy. It does not have the intoxicating effects of THC and hence is not prohibited in-competition by WADA. Caution is required with cannabidiol goods as THC can be added in certain products.
As of 2018, WADA no longer lists CBD as a prohibited substance. We would like to remind athletes that CBD oil often still contains some concentration of the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Therefore, the use of CBD oil is at an athlete’s own risk.
Yes. Cannabis and all its synthetic forms are prohibited in-competition.
Anti-doping labs don't report on low concentrations of cannabis in an athlete's sample, and anti-doping organisations don't pursue action against such athletes. Despite this, we still see rule violations for cannabis each year.
The threshold that exist for cannabis don't allow frequent, habitual, or in-competition use.
Positive test results can occur from use of cannabis products and methods other than smoking. Inhaled or eaten cannabis can be detectable for long periods of time. Regular cannabis users have much longer detection windows than those who consume occasionally.
As with all prohibited substances, athletes can avoid violations by avoiding cannabis use during their sporting career.
Passive inhalation of cannabis or other drugs is unlikely to result in a positive test, but we advise athletes to avoid it to be safe.
Legality is a different issue to whether something is or isn't permitted in sport.
The World Anti-Doping Agency continues to keep cannabis on the Prohibited List, which means that athletes should avoid using it.
Substances are included on the Prohibited List if they meet two of the three following criteria:
- use of the substance has the potential to enhance performance;
- use of the substance can cause harm to the health of the athlete; and
- use of the substance violates the spirit of sport.
We have no position on the issue of cannabis legalisation in New Zealand. While cannabis remains prohibited in sport, we are required under the current rules to proceed with a case where a positive test for cannabis is received.