A high incidence of positive cases for cannabinoids, in analyses for doping control in sports, has been observed since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) included them in the 1989 list of prohibited drugs under the title of classes of prohibited substances in certain circumstances. Where the rules of sports federations so provide, tests are conducted for marijuana, hashish or any other cannabis product exposure by means of urinalysis of 11-nor-delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (carboxy-THC) the main metabolite of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Concentrations >15 ng/mL (cut-off value) in confirmatory analytical procedures are considered doping. Cannabis is an illicit drug in several countries and has received much attention in the media for its potential therapeutic uses and the efforts to legalise its use.
Studies have demonstrated that the use of cannabinoids can reduce anxiety, but it does not have ergogenic potential in sports activities. An increase in heart rate and blood pressure, decline of cardiac output and reduced psychomotor activity are some of the pharmacological effects of THC that will determine a decrease in athletic performance. An ergolytic activity of cannabis products has been observed in athletes of several different sport categories. In Brazil, analyses for doping control in sports, performed in our laboratories, have detected positive cases for carboxy-THC in urine samples of soccer, volleyball, cycling and other athletes.
It is our intention to discuss in this article some points that may discourage individuals from using cannabis products during sports activities, even in the so-called permitted circumstances defined by the IOC and some sports federations.