On March 7, the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended two players for marijuana offenses. Clipper forward Lamar Odom and Laker guard Isaiah “JR” Rider were both suspended five games without pay for violations of the NBA’s anti-drug program.
While a member of the Atlanta Hawks, Rider was accused of marijuana use by hotel security in Florida. The NBA tried to enroll him into its treatment program, but Rider resisted. Odom failed a urine test for marijuana, and also did not attend the mandatory “after-care” program.
Drug testing is covered under the player’s collective agreement. Marijuana was not tested for until 1998. Before this time the players’ collective contract only mentioned steroids, heroin and cocaine.
Marijuana use doesn’t lead to suspensions until the third time a player is caught, but players are supposed to submit to mandatory treatment for their “drug problem.” Those who refuse treatment can receive multiple $10,000 fines, and then suspensions.
Many of the NBA’s most skilled players have been accused of being regular marijuana users. The list of players charged with marijuana possession in recent years includes high-profile names like Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson, Sacramento’s Chris Webber and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Sacramento Kings guard Jason Williams was suspended for the first five games of this season for marijuana.
Charles Oakley of the Toronto Raptors told the New York Post in February that 60% of NBA players use marijuana. “You got guys out there playing high every night,” said Oakley. His claim matches a 1997 poll by the New York Times, which claimed that 60% to 70% of NBA players smoke pot.
Although no studies have been done, it’s possible that marijuana use could improve the game of NBA players, and other athletes. The noted “time dilation” effects of cannabis could help players to analyze different options in less time.
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati had his 1998 Winter Olympics gold medal revoked, then reinstated, after testing positive for marijuana.
Also worthy of note is former Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Dock Ellis, who was high on LSD when he pitched a 1970 no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. It was the highpoint of his baseball career, and some have called it one of the greatest achievements in the history of sports.