Marijuana to enhance cycling performance? (& not just for downhill MTB kids)

Yes, apparently this might be happening. An article in The Guardian this week cites a report in The Wall Street Journal that an increasing number of ultra-marathon nutters runners are lighting up the doobies in training and pre- and post-race.

“If you can find the right level, it takes the stress out of running,” says Avery Collins, a 22-year-old professional ultramarathoner. “And it’s a postrace, post-run remedy.”

The right level… So, presumably not the level where you end up stuck on the sofa playing video games for 22 hours a day eating delivered pizza and MaccyD BigCracks whilst putting on 22lbs a week then.

“The person who is going to win an ultra is someone who can manage their pain, not puke and stay calm,” said veteran runner Jenn Shelton. “Pot does all three of those things.”

The Guardian article backs up the claims by runners that it helps them perform, stating that:

“A 2012 study funded by the National Institutes of Health…  found that exposure of up to seven “joint years” (ie 365 joints and/or pipe bowls) did not diminish lung function. That study actually found that marijuana users performed better on a lung function test – by a microscopic margin – than nonsmokers, possibly because of smokers’ “training” with deep breaths and holding smoke, the researchers said.”

But before you head down to the local corner for a dime bag, note that the jury’s not out on this one. The article goes on to state that:

“…marijuana “does have an effect of symptoms of chronic bronchitis”, Dr Donald Tashkin of the University of California said, including “cough and sputum” that develop when smoke irritates the lungs. “There are other potential risks that have not been confirmed,” he added, such as a possible associations for pneumonia, particularly for people with compromised immune systems, since the psychoactive chemical THC found in cannabis suppresses the system.”

But with some NBA players saying that 40-50% of athletes in the game are smoking weed, and the New York Times saying that could be as high as 60-70%, combined with the loosening of marijuana laws around the USA and indeed all over the world, it’s not too massive a leap to think that this is happening in other sports also.

The Journal article states that:

“In a nod to the growing acceptance of marijuana as a recreational drug, the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2013 raised the allowable level of THC—the drug’s active ingredient—to an amount that would trigger positive results only in athletes consuming marijuana in competition. That essentially gave the green light to marijuana usage during training, not to mention as a stress reliever the night before a race.

Hmm. So, is it cheating? I’m not that keen on PEDs as you may have noticed, but recreational drugs, no problem, as long as you are affecting no one else and keeping on an evenish keel, whatever floats your boat is fine by me. Yes they can be destructive but so can Krispy Kremes, and yes they can be rather interesting, as can… well, unlike Krispy Kremes.

God Bless America! And ganja! Cos how else could this thing possibly have happened...
God Bless America! And ganja! Cos how else could this thing possibly have happened…

THC and the reported effects means it’s not exactly EPO, and yes, riders and runners and other athletes are people too and they need to relax, but it doesn’t sit well with me this one. It sounds like these guys aren’t even actually smoking it for the sheer fun of it all, but because they believe it makes them better competitors.

Imagine if they legalise this and you get someone who gets all the bad side effects from dope, such as the clawing, feverish paranoia that comes with it, but the poor guy is in his room with a 6ft bong going slightly bonkers because everyone else is doing it.

Beta blockers block pain receptors right? And they are banned in most sports. We’re also moving into Therapeutic Use Exemption territory here too, where riders use pain killers by dint of permission from the authorities for an ailment (or not… possibly) which means they can ride on when they would otherwise have to stop – something again I don’t agree with.

So yeah, I feel like a party pooper here because a) some drugs are fun as long as they don’t make you give oral sex with scabby strangers in alleyways to get hold of them or turn you into Rob Ford (which is almost the same thing), and b) because I really like reggae. B

ut yeah – I’m gonna have to drop the trousers at this soiree.


click below to see the video report on this.




Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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