UK Athletes To Be Given Shorter Bans For Cannabis And Cocaine

New UK Anti-Doping Code Brings Good News to Athletes Who Use Cannabis

Many sporting leagues enforce strict rules regarding cannabis use. The NFL and NBA, for example, subject players to random drug tests. Positive tests for cannabis can earn players suspensions, pricey fines, and sometimes, mandatory entrance into substance abuse treatment programs. Leagues enforce rules like these despite the fact that many athletes have expressed their desire to use it to cope with pain. Retired athletes like Marvin Washington and Leonard Marshall have spoken out against anti-cannabis regulations, calling for athletes to have the freedom to use cannabis for its pain-relief properties.

“I love football. I’m only trying to make it safer,” Washington said, justifying his support for cannabis acceptance in athletics.

READ MORE: Can Pro Athletes Use Marijuana?

Luckily, many leagues have slowly begun to reconsider their strict approach to drug regulation.


The United Kingdom is the latest region to throw pro-cannabis athletes a bone. UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is changing the rules enforced towards players caught using drugs that are not intended to alter their athletic performance. Under the new rules, athletes who test positive for cocaine or cannabis use will be issued shorter bans than under previous rules. The UKAD regulates sporting leagues and athletic events in the United Kingdom.

These rules are slated to come into play in January 2021 as part of the new World Anti-Doping Agency Code, which aims to bring consistency to regulations around the world. According to the BBC, these new rules could eliminate term reductions for athletes who complete treatment programs, and voluntary admission of a drug violation could earn an even lighter punishment.

“We have developed the new rules to ensure that we are able to meet the latest challenges threatening clean sport and that athletes and the public can have confidence in clean competition,” explained UKAD’s Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead.

The New Approach To Drug Penalization Is Part Of A Set Of Changes To The UK Anti-Doping Code

Though the shortened penalties seem like the anti-doping code is more forgiving at large, the code is tightening the rules in other areas. For example, longer bans may be issued to players who violate rules while “aggravating circumstances” occur. According to the UKAD, this could include the use of other substances.

The new code also tightens up rules regarding whistleblowing. A new violation has been added to prohibit players to “discourage the reporting of information, or to retaliate against an individual for doing so.”

Hopefully, the new code will bring net positive changes to sports regulations in the United Kingdom – especially for players who turn to cannabis for pain relief.