Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cannabis will stay on banned list

WORLD Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey says he resents the use of the term "recreational drug" and has defended his body's stance on cannabis.

Fahey claims it violates at least two of the three requirements to be a banned substance.

In response to calls from leading trans-Tasman drug experts for WADA to review its policy on recreational drug use following the lifetime ban given to a rugby league player on the Gold Coast, Fahey gave no indication the policy on cannabis would be altered.

Writing in The Australian today, Australian Drug Foundation CEO John Rogerson, Australian National Council on Drugs executive director Gino Vumbaca and New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell claimed WADA's stance on cannabis has the potential to ruin careers and inexorably alter lives.

The trio also suggest the policy is too repressive. Only last month, player unions representing footballers and cricketers in England also called for recreational drugs to be removed from WADA's prohibited list. Fahey, however, was unmoved by the calls for change.

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"I resent the word recreational drug," Fahey said. "Nobody can say marijuana is a recreational drug. The cemetery is full of people who started on marijuana. It's illegal. They may be what society is using, but that doesn't make it legal.

"To try to say recreational drug, to me is a misnomer. There are only two types of drugs -- the legal drugs that we get under prescription or otherwise . . . and illegal drugs.

"The prohibited list contains a combination of both. In my view, the only recreational drugs that I would concede are entitled to that description are alcohol and tobacco.

"The rest are illegal drugs -- they breach the criminal code and let's call them just that. For me, it tries to dilute the message of the seriousness of drugs that are outside the law.

"To me, I think that's most unfortunate that people describe them as recreational drugs. They are illegal drugs."

Cannabis has been on WADA's list of banned substances since 2004.

In September, the agency's executive committee approved a new version of the list for next year, still banning cannabis.

Fahey stressed marijuana met two of the three arms of the WADA code, in it was a risk to the health of an athlete and contravened the spirit of sport. The code describes the spirit of sport as a celebration of the human spirit, body and mind, and is characterised by values including health, respect for rules and laws, and respect for self and other participants.

"The second condition is that the use of the substance represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete," Fahey said.

"Nobody could argue that particular condition hasn't been met. If anyone wants to argue marijuana is not a potential risk to the athlete's health, I would doubt they would get many supporters.

"The third arm is if the use of the substance violates the spirit of sport. Nobody could argue against that one. The two (requirements) are there."

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