CANNABIS CULTURE – The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) prohibits cannabinoids (grown cannabis and its derivatives) and cannabimimetics (Spice and other synthesised cannabis substitutes) for use in competition.
This puts cannabis in the same company as more conventionally well-known doping narcotics like opioids, ephedrine and anabolic steroids. However, this has not stopped KYND Cannabis Company sponsoring professional cyclist Teal Stetson-Lee in Nevada, helped by the state legalising recreational marijuana consumption in 2016. It’s a strange position for an athlete to find themselves in, but points to the fact that a broader trend towards decriminalising marijuana could see the world of dope and the world of cycling develop an unlikely relationship.
A Gray Area
In 2009 former world champion mountain biker Melissa Giove was busted for possession of roughly 350 pounds of cannabis. Indeed, federally cannabis is still classified as an illegal narcotic. Indeed, cannabis is a schedule one narcotic, which places it in the same category as “hard drugs.” However, cannabis has an ever more vocal chorus of patients and scientists preaching the innumerable medicinal qualities of this plant. The scientific community has been taking more serious investigations into the benefits of certain types of cannabis molecules to treat various mental and physical ailments, and as the possibilities of health benefits become grounded in more legitimate research, it’s no wonder mainstream media publications are also slowly destigmatising their coverage of cannabis use. Of course, there’s a wide variety of different kinds of cannabis with varying degrees of effectiveness, with treatment also being contingent on the size of the dose, type of cannabinoid used and method of application. What possible benefits could this bear on cyclists?
The Survey Says…
Marijuana’s ability to treat chronic pain is one of the better-researched aspects of potential medical applications. This could certainly benefit cyclists looking to pass further through the pain barrier for extended periods of cycling. Certain types of cannabinoid receptors, principally CB1 and CB2, which when triggered can result in an increase in somatic cardiovascular capacity through a process known as angiogenesis. The ability to send more blood to vital organs boast an obvious appeal to cycling enthusiasts. CB2 receptors can also regulate nitrous oxide generation, which helps cells activate in low-oxygen conditions. This can benefit any athlete, but the boost to high altitude mountain bikers is particularly interesting. It’s not all good news, though: THC has been found to increase a person’s resting heart rate and diminish the heart’s productivity during periods of extended exertion. It’s also found to increase blood pressure with short-term use. Although long-term use can see a drop over time, it also leads to a greater risk of hypotension.
Ultimately, the consensus on whether cannabis use could benefit physical activities like cycling hasn’t been reached. There still needs to be much more high-level research on the issue. Thankfully, with changing attitudes, that looks to be more of a likelihood in the future. Even then, the decision will come down to personal preference. The same dose and strain of marijuana can have very different effects on two different people, and tolerance and the background of a person’s general mental health also has a big impact on the results of cannabis consumption. It’s too early to say, in other words, but it looks to be a fascinating research topic for some time to come.