CBD for Athletes


Failed drug tests can have serious ramifications for athletes of different levels. If an athlete is found to be using performance-enhancing drugs, it can have a negative impact on their image or even put an end to their career. That is why professional athletes should always be conscious of the substances they consume. With this in mind, we will answer the question of whether CBD is legal for athletes and how it can be beneficial for sporting activities.

1. CBD and sport

The real benefits of CBD for improving athletic performance are still being considered, but some studies have shown that CBD can improve bone health, reduce inflammation, lower anxiety levels, help stay focused, and assist in dealing with insomnia. Here is a list of key findings on CBD’s potential in supporting athletic performance.

1.1 Healing fractures and improving bone health

Bones are the body’s foundation. For athletes, bone strength and a high level of readiness for training and competition are essential. Several studies have shown that CBD can improve collagen production to speed up the healing of fractures. Another study found that CBD can make bones stronger and stiffer when used for healing.

1.2 Reducing inflammation and speeding up recovery

As a successful athlete, no matter what you are training for, be it personal goals or participation in international sporting events at the highest level, fast recovery and reduced inflammation are of great importance. CBD is well-known for its potential anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that topical CBD can reduce pain and inflammation, helping athletes to recover quickly or improve their performance during training and competitions.

1.3 Relaxing muscles

Together with bones, muscles are the foundation of the body, so taking care of them is one of the most important steps in an athlete’s preparation. CBD can help slow down the flow of chemicals to the muscles, improve the body’s supply of endocannabinoids, relax muscles and reduce spasticity.

1.4 Protecting against gastrointestinal (GI) stress

The gastrointestinal system is another building block of the strong athlete’s body. It is possible that CBD may be a digestive health solution as it can lower cortisol (catabolic hormone) levels and help prevent intestinal leaks. Gastrointestinal stress symptoms such as nausea and vomiting can seriously affect the performance and recovery of athletes. CBD can be beneficial for gut health as it helps to regulate appetite and hunger.

1.5 Combating anxiety and sleep loss

Before major competitions or between training sessions, it’s essential for athletes to be calm and self-confident. CBD can help the body develop sufficient anxiety resistance by stimulating anti-anxiety and anti-stress hormones in the brain, thereby boosting your mood and self-confidence, allowing you to rest properly, and be fully prepared for new challenges.

If you would like to learn more about CBD and athlete conditioning, you can check out our article on the possibility of boosting athletic performance with CBD. Also, if you’re interested in an athlete’s personal opinion on the topic, check out our two-part interview with Ilias Bulaid, current kickboxer and mixed martial artist, where we discussed his experience of using CBD and drug testing after consuming CBD drops.

2. What is CBD isolate?

CBD isolate is one of the staple products on the market. But why is it so popular and why are we talking about it? First of all, CBD isolate is a crystalline solid or powder that contains pure CBD. The main difference between CBD isolate and other CBD products is that it only contains cannabidiol. What are some of the other characteristic features of CBD isolate? Well, it has no taste or smell and can be consumed in powder form or mixed with other oils like coconut or hempseed. Another peculiarity of CBD isolate is that it’s water-soluble. This means that isolates can be mixed into different beverages or smoothies. You can read more about CBD isolate and how it compares with broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products in one of our previous articles.

Since CBD isolate only contains CBD, it can be beneficial for athletes who are worried about it being banned on an international level. Why? That’s what we’ll be covering in this next part of the article.

3. WADA’s decision on CBD

The World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA is an international organisation dedicated to research, education, developing anti-doping capacity and monitoring compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. The agency’s role in professional sport is to lead the international movement for doping-free sport. Furthermore, the agency has representatives from the Olympic Movement as well as local authorities.

The most important aspect that we need to emphasize is that WADA does not conduct doping tests. All testing is carried out by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association or VADA. For its part, WADA only provides guidelines and directives. So, VADA is the testing association, but WADA’s guidelines on CBD are what we are interested in.

And what does the agency say about CBD? Well, the CBD compound is not prohibited by WADA, while THC is illegal. Some CBD extracts may still contain very low levels of THC, but even those can run the risk of being detected in drug tests.

Moreover, we would remind you that CBD’s legal status is not favourable in many countries around the world. You can read more about the legal landscape of CBD in Europe on our blog as well as follow our Weekly News Digests to learn more about the latest changes to CBD legislation worldwide.

4. CBD at the Tokyo Olympics

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have become historic not only because of the current epidemiological situation worldwide and the numerous world records in multiple disciplines, but also because these are the first games in history to allow the use of cannabis-based products during the preparation phase leading up to the competition. So, let’s talk about CBD and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in more detail.

Some Olympic athletes endorse the use of CBD because it can help muscles and joints recover. Also, CBD can help athletes maintain a more regular sleep pattern and may play a role in improving their overall mental well-being between training sessions.

Last year, in a study by John Moore of the University of Liverpool, 517 professional rugby players were asked about their use of CBD. A quarter said they used it at some point in their training, and 8% said they continued to do so. About 80% of respondents who said they were using CBD did so for recovery and relieving pain, as well as improving sleep. About 30% reported that they use CBD to deal with anxiety. Don’t be confused by the total percentage of the respondents’ answers, as they could choose more than one answer.

With that said, THC is still a taboo substance at the Olympics. Proof of this is the suspension of world-famous American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson after she tested positive for cannabis during a US track and field competition before the Games.

5. The role of technology

It’s essential not to underestimate the impact of technological advances on the development of the CBD industry in general and CBD use among sports professionals particularly. In this section, we have grouped the key areas of potential technological growth that could open the door to CBD use by athletes of all levels.

  • Extraction technologies

We are currently seeing the emergence of new extraction technologies, such as cold press extraction, which could potentially bring us closer to more natural yielded products. The biggest challenge in this area is to create a mechanism that can ensure 100% compliance with THC threshold regulations.

  • Novel delivery methods

Thanks to technological advances, the industry can offer new CBD delivery methods that make CBD more accessible and, in some cases, more effective. Conversely, the introduction of new kinds of CBD products can pose challenges to lab testing processes, as not all products can be formulated in such a way that all portions would have the same potency. As a result, the development of product-oriented testing methods might take some time, while traditional methods could lead to incorrect test results.

  • Testing technologies

Certified drug testing organisations should be continually developing technology for THC and CBD screening. These tools would make the testing process more cost-effective and sensitive enough to accurately detect THC levels.

Final thoughts

If you are a professional athlete and you are unsure of which CBD product to choose, you should definitely opt for CBD isolate as it doesn’t contain any other compounds. If you want to use full-spectrum CBD oil, for example, please keep in mind that there is always a slight risk that THC may be detected in your body, even several days after you last consumed it. Let us also remind you that more research is still needed on the real benefits of CBD on athletic performance. And lastly, don’t forget to check your local CBD legislation, as CBD laws vary from one region to another. Also, if you are an athlete, it’s essential to check the CBD regulations in your particular sport, although the world’s leading authority on drugs and sport, WADA, has ruled that athletes are free to use CBD.


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  13. Why cannabis is still a banned Olympics substance (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58003743)
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