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NCAA Reduces The Threshold For Testing Positive For Marijuana, Plans To Lower Penalties


urine specimenBy Phillip Smith

The NCAA is reducing the threshold for a positive result for marijuana, meaning that student athletes who smoke pot are more likely to be caught. At the same time, however, it is recommending reducing the penalty for those testing positive for marijuana.

The testing threshold will drop from 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood to five nanograms (the same standard that is considered per se evidence of impairment under Washington state’s new marijuana DUID law) in order to “more accurately identify usage among student athletes,” the group’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport announced Friday.

The lower marijuana threshold will go into effect on August 1 and would require a season-long suspension from athletic activities, the same penalty for those athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs. The CSMAS is recommending that the penalty for positive marijuana tests be lowered to a half-season suspension because it doesn’t consider the herb to be a performance-enhancing drug, but that change won’t come into effect until August 2014.

That means the NCAA could see a spike in one-year suspensions for pot as the new, tighter threshold goes into effect, but the move to reduce penalties lags behind.

CSMAS explained that marijuana had not been part of athletic drug testing until after some Olympic snow boarders tested positive for it after the 1998 games and embarrassed Olympic officials:

“At that time, there was no penalty for a positive marijuana test, but many in the Olympic family were embarrassed about the test results. This led to placing marijuana on the in-competition list of banned drugs,” the panel said on its web site. “Many scientists and clinicians have debated whether marijuana is truly performance enhancing. Indeed, John Fahey, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, recently acknowledged that many scientists believe that the current marijuana criteria need to be amended, and he further stated that this matter will be considered in a review process.”

If marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, why should athletes be penalized for using it? CSMAS is glad you asked:

“The World Anti-Doping Agency lists three reasons for drug testing in sport: (1) to prevent cheating through the use of performance-enhancing substances and methods; (2) to deter athletes from ingesting substances that may harm the athlete’s health; and (3) to deter athletes from ingesting substances or engaging in doping methods that are contrary to the spirit of sport,” the group explained. “Whereas the CSMAS rightly focused on the fact that marijuana and other street drugs are not performance enhancing, the committee also recognizes that the universe of sport is special, and the student-athlete is obliged to embrace the spirit of sport. We do not believe that student-athletes should be ingesting marijuana and other street drugs, and we believe that a combination of penalties coupled with behavioral intervention is the most balanced approach to this issue.”

And does this mean an athlete who smoked a joint a month before the big bowl game could test positive for marijuana and face penalties from the NCAA?

“Yes,” said CSMAS.

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  1. So because this “group” believes something its the bible. Gesh I think these groups forgot how they became groups to begin with, they would be NO WHERE without the people. And guess what 50% of the people spoke FOR it, imagine if people boycotted groups that did this stuff :D

  2. There seems to be some confusion. In the Q&A with NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline, he states,

    “Analytical techniques have advanced considerably over the years, and it is now possible to credibly differentiate active versus passive
    inhalation of marijuana at a threshold of 5 ng/mL. Since the intent
    remains to test for active marijuana use, it makes sense to shift to the
    updated best practices in analytical drug testing.”

    But, obviously referring to metabolites, “Marijuana can be detected through a urine drug test up to one month after use, and sometimes longer for individuals who smoke chronically, or for individuals who are obese. Marijuana is stored in fat tissues, which is why detection is possible for such a long period of time.”

    So which it? Active delta 9 or metabolites?

  3. “The testing threshold will drop from 15 nanograms per milliliter of
    blood to five nanograms (the same standard that is considered per se
    evidence of impairment under Washington state’s new marijuana DUID law)…”

    EXCEPT that under I-502, the testing is only for ACTIVE, delta-9 THC and not carboxy COOH metabolites. So, this is not the same standard as Washington’s new law.

  4. Metabolites found in urine are not marijuana, thus not illegal in most states. So the NCAA is gunna suspend players for something legal? The NCAA is one lawyer away from another mismanagement issue at a time weed has descended in unlawful priority, a mere infraction in Calif.

  5. the level is too low at these levels a regular smoker does not have the physical and mental impairements that cause accidents, unless they are already impaired.

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