By Kevin Loria January 25, 2015 10:03 AM
But THC, the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana, wasn't even included in the International Olympic Committee's banned-substances list at the time (it is now, but at a much higher level than the one he tested at). Rebagliati was allowed to keep his victory and medal. (He is now in the medical-marijuana business.)
Even though it's on the banned list now, does anyone really think of marijuana as a performance-enhancing drug in the first place?
After all, as Robin Williams later joked, "the only way it's a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big f---ing Hershey bar at the end of the run," right?Maybe not.
It turns out marijuana might actually help some people perform better at certain sports.
This may sound crazy. After all, we're all familiar with the image of the couch-locked, Cheetos-covered stoner.
Yet there are people that say training while high has helped them unlock new performance gains.
In November, Men's Journal interviewed elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky, a Colorado gym owner who also leads training sessions fueled by marijuana edibles."Marijuana relaxes me and allows me to go into a controlled, meditational place," Drusinsky told Men's Journal. "When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form."
Outside Magazine correspondent Gordy Megroz wrote in the February issue of that magazine that while he has never been much of a pot smoker, he heard enough close friends — especially skiers — say that getting high helped their performance that he decided to give it a shot.
Megroz first tried a cannabis gummy while on one of those snow-covered mountains and wrote that with a "slight yet very functional high," he "felt invincible and proceeded to attack the steepest lines without fear" — ski-speak for feeling able to tackle the craziest parts of a mountain. It's easy to see how this kind of fearlessness could be appealing to an expert skier, but could lead anyone — especially a novice — into making a dangerous decision.
Stanford Medical School professor Keith Humphreys explained to Megroz that there's a scientific explanation for this. "We have cannabinoid receptors throughout our brains, and when the THC hits those receptors, it triggers a system that reduces anxiety," Humphreys said. "That you would feel more aggressive is a natural reaction to the drug."
In the World Anti-Doping Association's current ban on competing while stoned, the organization cites studies that show marijuana can decrease anxiety and increase airflow to the lungs by acting as a bronchodilator, something that decreases resistance in the airways.
So Megroz decided to perform further tests, with the help (and under the supervision) of a physiologist.
The basic test was simple. He got on a treadmill, set the pace for five miles per hour, and then increased the ramp angle 2.5% every two minutes.
Sober, he could keep it up for 19 minutes. But stoned, he could last 19:30 — a "substantial performance gain," according to the physiologist. He repeated the test twice more with similar results.
He also found that he got less sore after a heavy squat session.
In other words, getting stoned helped him perform and recover better.
But while testing mountain-biking performance, results weren't quite as good. He writes that while he started off feeling "flowy and fast, [riding] much better than when" sober, he soon misjudged his speed and rode off the trail.