CBD has been the subject of much attention for a variety of potential health and medical benefits that continue to be studied and evaluated. Some of the possible benefits, like pain (Nurs Outlook. 2018 Dec 13. pii: S0029-6554(18)30563-3) or inflammation management (Pain. 2017 Dec; 158(12): 2442–2451), could be attractive for athletes.
In the United States, FDA approved the first cannabis-derived medicine in the form of Epidiolex (from GW Pharmaceuticals), which is nearly pure CBD with trace amounts of other phytocannabinoids present. Epidiolex was demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of seizures, but its approval has complicated the regulatory perspective for supplements because CBD is now considered a drug.
Hemp oil, which is rich in CBD, but usually differs in chemical makeup from the pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex, has been sold as a dietary supplement and is responsible for a burgeoning new industry. Hemp-derived products are required to have no more than 0.3 percent THC content.
The primary concern for athletes is how much THC might remain in hemp oil or a CBD product. Is hemp oil legal for athletes? Will it cause a positive drug test?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) no longer prohibits CBD, but that does not mean hemp oil is legal and approved for athletes. Other naturally present cannabinoids in hemp oil remain prohibited by WADA, perhaps an oversight in their language adjustment. Other sports have yet to follow suit and remove CBD from the prohibited substance lists, so CBD technically remains prohibited by most other sporting groups, including the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
While CBD content is the focus of hemp oil products, it is the urine testing threshold for THC that matters to athletes or others subject to drug testing. In practice, THC metabolites and synthetic cannabinoids are the compounds of relevance in urine testing; most groups do not test for CBD.
Athletes subject to sport drug testing must consider how much THC they could ingest by consuming hemp oil products as few are completely free of THC. Pure CBD isolate products would perhaps be acceptable under WADA regulations, but those would be considered a drug in the United States, so CBD isolate is not a legal option for the dietary supplement industry to pursue.
Learn more about CBD, THC and hemp testing for athletes in INSIDER’s CBD Digital Magazine.
Oliver Catlin is president of the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), an international third-party certification and testing provider specializing in prohibited substance testing, label specification and quality verification, GMP (good manufacturing practice) compliance and more. Certifications include Certified Drug Free®, Certified Quality™, Certified GMP™ and Certified Hemp. Services are offered to finished product brands, ingredient providers, and manufacturing facilities in the dietary supplement and natural product industries.