Team USA’s #1 Judo Olympian at 73kg, Nicholas Delpopolo, has become the first competitor knocked out of the Olympics for a positive doping test for marijuana.
The US judoka, who finished 7th in Olympic competition, says he inadvertently ate some food that had been baked with marijuana in it before leaving for the Games. Delpopolo is the first Olympic athlete caught by the IOC for use of a banned substance post-competition.
Stephany Lee, Team USA’s #1 wrestler at 72kg, was one of the athletes caught before competition. She was banned from the Olympics for testing positive for THC prior to leaving for London, which she claims legal use of for a medical condition.
The IOC has stripped his Olympic accreditation and will ask the International Judo Federation to change the final standings for the 73kg Judo competition. The IOC also asked the governing body of judo to “consider any further action within its own competence.”
The IOC has invested in a $30 million laboratory with 150 scientists working around the clock to test 6,250 samples collected from London athletes – a 50% increase in samples from Beijing four years ago. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is partnering with the Olympics to provide the facilities and labor for the drug testing. World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Director General David Howman told CNN “if they are cheating they are likely to be caught.”
However, former anti-doping chief Dick Pound tells CNN “maybe 10% of athletes use drugs and we’re catching one or two of them. People who have prepared in advance and used drugs coming here (to London) won’t get caught.”
Cannabis is on the WADA list of banned substances. Most substances on the list are there because of their ability to enhance performance or mask drugs that do. WADA makes no claim that cannabis is enhancing any athlete’s performance; it is simply the illegality of cannabis that lands it on the anti-doping list. If it were a matter of protecting the athlete’s health, Budweiser wouldn’t be a corporate Olympic sponsor; it, too, would be on the banned substances list.
The WADA keeps the athlete’s samples frozen for further testing for eight years, in case some new technology is developed to detect previously undetectable doping. Let’s hope that the famous bong picture of Michael Phelps is the only evidence of his pot smoking from 2004, 2008, and 2012. If the most-decorated Olympian ever were forced to surrender some of his 22 Athens, Beijing, or London Olympic medals, then perhaps public outcry would force WADA to re-think banning cannabis.