Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 different cannabinoids derived from either hemp or cannabis plants. While research is fairly limited, there have been some findings, along with anecdotal evidence, suggesting the compound may show promise in helping with pain relief, inflammation, and muscle soreness — conditions often associated with pro athletes.
In 2018, the World Health Organization released a report that compared CBD to other pain-relieving options like opioids. Its findings stated that CBD did not have the same potential issues for misuse or dependency. In the same year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from prohibited substances.
A spokesman for the WADA was quoted in a 2016 USA Today article, saying, "Our information suggests that many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption. The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not used during the days and weeks before a competition."
Since the WADA lifted the ban on CBD, many athletes have become public proponents of the possible benefits of CBD for athletes. Here are five athletes from different disciplines who have been leading the conversation around CBD, cannabis, and athletes.
Olympic gold medalist, 2019 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, and two-time Women's World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe has spoken publicly about the potential benefits of CBD oil to help with general health and wellness, along with assisting with sleep and pain management.
"I wanted a healthier, more natural option for pain management, sleep aid, relaxation while flying, and general recovery," she told Forbes in a 2019 interview.
Rapinoe took her passion for CBD one step further. Along with her twin sister Rachael, the superstar athlete founded Mendi, a CBD brand that creates hemp-derived CBD products formulated to potentially treat athletic injuries.
These days, many NFL players publicly advocate for CBD and cannabis use to treat sports-related injuries. But Eugene Monroe was the first to argue that players should have access to safer alternatives instead of addictive opioids.
Monroe retired from professional football in 2019 over concerns about head trauma injuries sustained during his career playing for the Jackson Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens.
Not only is Mike Tyson one of the world's most famous heavyweight boxers, but he's also one of the most vocal advocates for promoting the possible benefits athletes can get from CBD and cannabis use.
The undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987-1990, Tyson has openly stated that he uses CBD oil for training and both before and after fights.
"I've been fighting for over 20 years, and my body has a lot of wear and tear," Tyson said in an interview.
"I had two surgeries and I used marijuana to calm my nerves, and it would take the pain away. But before, they had me on those opiates, and those opiates had me all screwed up."
Tyson is also a cannabis entrepreneur, opening his cannabis company Tyson Holistic Holdings in 2016. He has his line of CBD products, and plans are underway to open a 420-acre holistic cannabis center called Tyson Ranch in California.
UFC fighter Nate Diaz made headlines in 2016 when he openly puffed on a vape pen during a press conference after a losing UFC 202 to Connor McGregor.
He used the opportunity to tell the world about his alleged positive impacts CBD has on his body and how he uses it to help his recovery and reduce inflammation.
Since then, Diaz has become a cannabis entrepreneur and launched CBD company Game Up, with his brother and fellow UFC fighter, Nick, offering hemp-derived CBD products that are made using "high quality organic ingredients, which are vegan-friendly and are always produced sustainably in the USA," according to the website.
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was the first-ever gold medal winner in the sport, taking home gold at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. Two days later, he was stripped of his medal and kicked out of the games after testing positive for cannabis. However, the International Olympic Committee's decision was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport due to a lack of explicit provisions around cannabis testing during the Nagano Games.
"It's just a perception of what people have in their minds of what performance-enhancing means," Rebagliati said in an interview.
"It's all about wellness and mental wellness, too, which is a big part of an athlete's life. For me as an athlete, I use cannabis for all of those things, including motivation to keep [training]," he said.
More research is required into the potential medical benefits of CBD and cannabis, but these folks are fans regardless.