Green Report: Professional athletes use weed, but does it enhance performance?

For some athletes, there seems to be more than just one Super Bowl.

Whether it is in the NFL, the NBA or the Olympics, drug-testing reports have confirmed the use of marijuana by athletes. The consequences of such behavior has been game suspensions/bans as well as sponsorship losses.


Despite it being a banned substance, many players continue to be fans of the green.

In a recent interview with Fox Business, former Chicago Bulls guard and three-time Duke All-American Jay Williams said that he estimates about 75 to 80 percent of NBA players use marijuana. Williams also spoke out on the positive effects of marijuana, both for athletes and for society as a whole.

UFC commentator, comedian and cannabis connoisseur Joe Rogan has stated before on his podcast that there are more fighters in the UFC that smoke pot than those that don’t. Fighter Nick Diaz has been the most vocal about his use of marijuana within the league.

Citing its pain-relieving effects, current and former athletes have said that marijuana is a much better alternative to addictive pain-killers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. Such opioids are completely legal for professional athletes to take when prescribed by a doctor, and they are very easy to get.

The dangers of opioid dependence have made many athletes turn to the reefer. Former offensive lineman Kyle Turley said marijuana saved him from an otherwise harrowing painkiller addiction. Even a former CSU running back admitted to smoking throughout his college football career in order to treat his pain.

But critics argue that marijuana could be a performance enhancing drug and not just a remedy for chronic pain.

If stereotypes are anything to base opinions on, exercise and marijuana don’t seem to mix well. Impressive athletic prowess doesn’t exactly fit into the lazy stoner persona.

So, what are the actual studies on weed and working out?

Well, like most questions surrounding marijuana, there is no definitive answer because studies are still in their infancy.

However, the little bit of research that has been done says that the chemical compounds found in weed mimic the body’s natural endorphins. This perhaps increases the pain threshold much like a runner’s high and could make it easier to push through a training session. In other studies cited by the World Anti-Doping Association, marijuana has been shown to decrease anxiety and improve airflow to the lungs of asthmatics.


Anecdotal evidence provides more support for the argument that marijuana improves exercise. A Denver gym owner, Clifford Drusinsky, eats an edible before going on runs or bike rides. He says that he’s in a more focused and meditative state when high and it allows him to train longer. And he likes to share this knowledge with others. At his gym, F.I.T.S. Conditioning, he invites his twenty-odd clients to indulge in an edible before starting their TRX training sessions.

So, marijuana may still have an unclear association with exercise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t conduct your own personal study (provided that it is legal for you to do so). A more academic approach doesn’t look to be on the docket anytime soon, but that’s only because marijuana is still on a schedule of its own.