In what could be a first for the Olympic movement in this country, USA Triathlon will announce Monday that it has signed a deal to partner with a CBD manufacturer.
The move comes at a time when elite athletes are eager to use CBD, or cannabidiol, for a variety of ailments, including pain. But doing so represents a gamble because over-the-counter products sometimes contain banned substances, such as THC, not listed on the label.
USA Triathlon decided to work with a Colorado company called Pure Spectrum after determining that it uses industrial hemp and adheres to “strict third-party testing protocols to assure the products are pure.”
U.S. Olympic officials were not aware of any other national governing body that has aligned with a CBD manufacturer.
Cannabidiol is a compound that can be taken from either marijuana, which contains the widely banned THC, or hemp, which has very little of the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the extract as a treatment for two forms of childhood epilepsy. At the same time, CBD has been touted to help with a range of additional maladies.
“I had hip surgery in March, and I’ve been trying a lot of different things for the residual pain,” said Aaron Scheidies, a cyclist and triathlete who competed for the United States at the 2016 Paralympic Games and is hoping to make the 2020 team.
His governing body’s announcement prompted him to order CBD, which he planned to start using this week.
“I feel pretty safe with a company that does batch testing and, on top of that, has the approval of USA Triathlon,” he said.
This past weekend also brought news that Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. women’s soccer star and 2019 FIFA women’s world player of year, is working with her twin sister on a CBD brand called Mendi.
“As a tool, CBD has been integral in Megan’s training and recovery program for the past few years,” Rachael Rapinoe said in a statement.
Even the NFL, with traditionally has taken a hard-line stance of keeping marijuana on the banned substance list, has announced cannabis will be included in a study of alternative pain therapies.
“Everyone knows this game is brutal,” said Kyle Turley, a retired offensive lineman who advocates a rule change. “Cannabis saved my life, period, and it could help a lot of other players.”
But some athletes using cannabidiol have inadvertently run afoul of anti-doping rules in other sports. Problems can arise from slipshod product testing and the undetected presence of THC.
This year, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency sanctioned freeskier Devin Logan even though authorities determined she had tested positive because a CBD product she was using “contained higher than labeled levels of THC.”
THC remains on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list. The USADA ruling, which brought a three-month suspension, aligned with an anti-doping principle that holds athletes ultimately responsible for anything that ends up in their bodies.
“I should not have trusted the product,” Logan said, adding that “I want this to be a serious lesson for anyone using CBD products.”
USA Triathlon chief executive Rocky Harris said his organization agreed to work with Pure Spectrum because the company uses multiple third-party laboratories and posts test results for every batch.
The agreement does not preclude an inadvertent anti-doping violation, but, as an athlete, Scheidies was willing to proceed.
“I’ve been interested in trying CBD for quite some time now,” he said. “This makes me feel pretty confident.”