Last year, the NCAA made a rule that decreased the amount of THC in the bloodstream it takes to fail a drug test; 15 nanograms per milliliter of THC will trigger a failure and will result in a half season suspension for the “offending” athlete.
Prior to this new rule, the threshold for failing a drug test was higher, but the punishment was also more severe: a full, as opposed to half, season suspension.
What are we to make of these new rules and this seemingly contradictory stance towards marijuana use? On the one hand, it’s now easier to fail a drug test, but on the other hand, the penalty is less severe.
The NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport (CSMAS) stated that its reasoning for banning marijuana in the first place, which it admits is not a performance-enhancing drug, is that preventing athletes from consuming the plant protects the “spirit of the sport.” Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer, explained the decision by saying, “There is no good scientific evidence that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug, and it makes both scientific and philosophical sense to treat marijuana usage by student-athletes differently than anabolic-androgenic steroid use. We want to deter use, but it is also our moral responsibility to try to change the behavior of student-athletes who may be abusing street drugs such as marijuana.”
By using the “spirit of the sport” line, the NCAA is helping advance the idea that using such a substance is immoral. The use of a cannabis should not be viewed as a moral transgression, and especially in an organization where the athletes are amateurs and not professionals, it does not stand to reason that the NCAA should drug test its athletes based on the “spirit of the sport.”