Recreational drugs

Don't risk it

Testing positive for a recreational drug can result in a ban from all sport.

Many substances known as “recreational” or “party” drugs are on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and are therefore banned in sport.  

Substances like methamphetamine, BZP, MDMA, cocaine and cannabis are banned in-competition*. If you test positive for these substances in-competition, it can result in a ban from all sport. 

Some of these substances can stay in your system for a long time after you take them. That means you could use a substance out-of-competition but test positive for that substance in-competition.  

Athletes can and do get banned from sport for these substances. Avoid a positive test by not using recreational drugs. 

*In-competition means from 11.59pm on the day before your competition to the end of your competition and its sample collection process. 

Jump to our cannabis advice

Substances of abuse

In 2021, WADA recognised that some substances that are banned in sport are frequently abused in society outside of sport. They grouped these substances together in the Substances of Abuse category, which contains: 

  • THC (e.g. cannabis) 

  • MDMA 

  • Heroin 

  • Cocaine 

Substances of Abuse are still banned in-competition and testing positive can result in an anti-doping sanction, including publication of your rule violation and a ban from all sport. 

Sanctions for Substances of Abuse 

Athletes who test positive but can prove that they took the substance out-of-competition, and not to enhance sporting performance, may be eligible for a reduced sanction of three months. This sanction may be further reduced to one month if the athlete completes a substance of abuse treatment programme. 

This approach focuses on the athlete first, requiring a health-focused approach to sanctioning, addressing substance abuse, and getting athletes back into sport. 

Cannabis in focus

Banned in-competition 

Cannabis is banned in-competition. In fact, all natural and synthetic cannabinoids, except CBD, are banned in-competition. That includes: 

  • Those found in cannabis and cannabis products; 

  • Natural and synthetic THC; 

  • Synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC. 

Testing positive for any of these substances can lead to an anti-doping sanction and a ban from all sport. 

Why it's banned 

Cannabis has been on the Prohibited List for a long time. Substances are added to the list if they meet two of the criteria for inclusion in the List, which are: 

  • The potential to enhance sport performance; 

  • Represents a risk to athlete health; and 

  • Violates the spirit of sport. 

In this instance WADA believes cannabis use represents a risk to athlete health and violates the spirit of sport. 

As a National Anti-Doping Organisation, we can influence WADA as to what goes on the list or comes off it. We have been consistent in our annual submissions to WADA asking for cannabis to be removed from the Prohibited List.  

To date, cannabis remains on the Prohibited List, and we advise athletes to avoid it. We will continue to petition to WADA to change its approach. 

Avoiding a positive test 

The best way to avoid a positive test is to avoid using cannabis or cannabinoids, natural or synthetic. 

Our scientists know that THC remains in your system for a longer time than other substances. However, we can’t give any timelines for how long it takes to clear your system. The length of time is different for everyone and influenced by a range of factors, including : 

  • amount of the substance consumed or concentration 

  • an individual’s metabolism 

  • how it is taken (e.g. inhaled, eaten) 

  • frequency of use 

 Low levels of THC (e.g. by passive inhalation) are unlikely to trigger a positive test. However, frequent or heavy use is likely to result in a positive test result and a ban from sport. 

The best way to avoid a positive test is to avoid cannabis. 

CBD – not banned, but risky 

Cannabidiol (CBD) may not be banned in sport, but CBD products like CBD oil are still a risk to athletes. 

CBD is non-psychoactive and commonly referred to as cannabis without THC. It doesn’t have the intoxicating effects of THC, so isn’t banned in sport. CBD has medical uses, such as pain management and epilepsy treatment.  

However, cannabidiol products like CBD oil can contain THC, which is banned in-competition. That makes CBD products a risk for athletes. Athletes use them at their own risk.  

The legal status of cannabis isn’t related to the status of cannabis in sport. Cannabis may be legal in a specific country or state but remains banned worldwide in sport by WADA. 

In 2021, US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for cannabis in Oregon, USA. While its use is legal in Oregon, cannabis remains banned in sport, and as a result she lost her spot in the Tokyo Olympics. 

Don’t get caught out. The best way to avoid a positive test is to avoid cannabis.