NCAA Adjusts Cannabis Testing Policy by Increasing THC Threshold

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is updating their cannabis policy by upping the threshold in THC testing to adopt the level set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

A press release published by the NCAA reveals that the THC threshold for college athletes will be raised from 35 to 150 nanograms per millilitre.

The threshold adjustment is effective immediately and applicable to drug tests administered in Autumn 2021 or later.

This major change in policy was recommended by the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport. It follows a controversial year in drugs and sport after sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from her main event at the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for THC.

“Reconsidering the NCAA approach to cannabis testing and management is consistent with feedback from membership on how to better support and educate student-athletes in a society with rapidly evolving public health and cultural views regarding cannabis use,” said Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer in the press release.

“Marijuana is not considered a performance-enhancing substance, but it remains important for member schools to engage student-athletes regarding substance use prevention and provide management and support when appropriate,” Hainline adds.

NCAA restructures penalties for THC

The Committee also recommended a reconfiguration of the penalty structure for athletes who test positive for THC.

The proposed new penalty structure details how student-athletes will not lose eligibility to play following a positive THC test, as long as the school provides a management plan and education for the athlete.

However, the student may be withheld from a proportion of regular-season contests if they continue to test positive and are not compliant with the school’s management and education plan.

“These adjustments to the NCAA drug testing program were approved after careful consideration and extensive discussion of the recommendations made by the Drug Testing Subcommittee, which has been meeting since last fall,” said Dr. Stephanie Chu, Colorado team physician and CSMAS chair.

Dr. Chu concludes that “the updated cannabis testing policies create a clear pathway for student-athletes to participate in education and management programs specific to their needs at the campus level”.

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