Cannabis in Pro Sports: How Does Weed Help Athletes?
Here’s a fun fact: if you didn’t know, athletes smoke weed. A lot of them do, and some of them smoke a lot.
Of course, you don’t hear about most of it until after they’ve retired because most major sports leagues have extremely strict rules around drug use, but the stories these athletes tell about cannabis and its place in our political world are fascinating.
From staving off the pain of injuries (yep, athletes get injured often) to helping deal with the pressures of superstardom and multimillion-dollar contracts, weed’s powers seem to have a particular draw among professional athletes.
Let’s dig deeper.
Do Athletes Smoke Weed? Can Athletes Smoke Weed?
After these two, the logical next question is probably “should athletes smoke weed?” First off, yes, athletes smoke weed. A recent groundbreaking Bleacher Report interview confirmed that the world’s best athletes smoke weed. And it’s common knowledge among almost every major sports league that they do it.
So yes, the answer to “can athletes smoke weed” is yes. They can and they sure do.
Now, are athletes allowed to smoke weed (or use cannabis in any way) by the leagues that govern their sports? That’s a different question. Even with the prevalence of drug tests in the NFL, MLB, and NBA, players have smoked (and just maybe… still do smoke) weed regularly—during the season, and sometimes even before games.
Oh yeah, and so do their coaches and other people working in the organizations.
“Shoot, the coaches do it,” says Shaun Smith, a retired Dallas Cowboy. “Personnel, people upstairs do it. Quarterbacks that do it. Captains, your leaders of the team, smoke as much as I do—might even smoke more than me.”
So, what are the effects of smoking weed that athletes (and coaches, apparently) like so much?
Seven out of the 12 athletes that Bleacher Report interviewed said that they used cannabis for “pain management, anxiety, insomnia—and that they were 20-somethings who enjoyed smoking weed.”
But Is Weed Good for Athletes?
For most people, the positive effects of weed tend to revolve around relaxation, “mellowing them out,” anxiety and depression relief, and ease of sleeping.
But for athletes, the benefits of smoking weed are often magnified, simply because of their lifestyles. With gruelling schedules and often brutal styles of play (have you seen NBA players jostling for rebounds and taking charges from 250-pound freight trains at full speed?), their bodies take much more punishment than the average person.
We don’t have to mention the kind of impact that football and hockey players put their bodies through, right?
And the aches and pains that most of us experience? Probably a 3 out of 10 on the professional athlete scale.
This is one of the most significant reasons why the benefits of weed seem so pronounced for athletes: their bodies simply need the relief because of their day jobs.
Unlike steroids, weed doesn’t really make you stronger—perhaps less susceptible temporarily to pain, but it doesn’t affect athletic performance in a way that would typically be thought of as “cheating.”
So why is weed banned from all these major leagues?
“It’s a stereotype drug,” says Matt Barnes, ex-Golden State Warrior and NBA champion. “It’s a ‘black athlete’ stereotype drug. We are the only league that they test four times random for weed. Like, why? You’re not testing for alcohol. You’re not testing for, I mean, these pills that are destroying our insides that our trainers are giving us. You know what I mean? You’re testing for weed because you know we like to do it.”
That’s one likely reason. Another one is that cannabis simply hasn’t been studied enough like other drugs like opioids and steroids have. We don’t have enough information to be able to say “yes, it has a huge and unfair enough impact on athletes’ performance that we should treat it like steroids” or “no, it doesn’t unfairly impact athletes’ performance at all and we should just let them use it to help manage pain or anxiety.”
Hopefully this research surfaces soon though, given how many athletes have come out in support of cannabis and testified to how it’s helped them deal with injuries in a safer way than other addictive drugs.
Top Athletes Who Smoke Weed
Without further ado, we bring you the athletes who are out cannabis users and fighting to change the perception of this plant both in major league sports and also in society.
Matt Barnes – NBA – “All of my best games, I was medicated.”
Al Harrington – NBA – “I feel like this is the most dynamic plant on earth because it does so many things.”
Martellus Bennett – NFL -”There’s times of the year where your body just hurts so bad that you don’t want to just be popping pills all the time. … It ruins your liver. There’s a lot of these anti-inflammatories that you take for so long that, like, it starts to eat at your liver or kidneys and things like that. And a human made that. God made weed.”
Ryan Clady – NFL – “We only get tested once a year. Why have that one once-a-year test when it’s so beneficial to all the players who use it?”
John Moffitt – NFL – “It’s really just a stigma in power. I mean, they could just be like, ‘Let’s get rid of that one test.’ But really most guys can clean it up for that amount of time and still have it during the season. I think they know that.”
Nick and Nate Diaz – UFC – “[I’m the] Number One athletic stoner – besides Michael Phelps.” – (Nate)
Ricky Williams – NFL – “Marijuana is 10 times better for me than Paxil.”
Kenyon Martin – NBA – (On how many people in the NBA smoke weed) “It was a lot. It was people who you wouldn’t think.”
Shaun Smith – NFL – “I smoked two blunts before every game.”
Cuttino Mobley – NBA
Mark Stepnoski – NFL
Bill Lee – MLB