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SAFA Calls for Stricter Drug Testing in Spectacular Own Goal: Cool to Drink Yourself Stupid, but Don’t Dare Smoke a Joint

Thought Leader by William Wallace. This article originally appeared in The Highco on 27 August 2021.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has scored an own goal on dagga policies. It wants stricter drug-testing after kicking several players off of the Olympic team.
It’s no big secret that the times and truth have been far stranger than fiction for longer than just a moment. Yet they continue to some how get weirder. The Olympics took place amongst massive global turbulence and was an inspirational reminder of humanity’s ability to overcome even the toughest obstacles. But it was not all a dream come true experience for a handful of athletes who found themselves watching their comrades from the discomfort of their homes, rather than competing with or against them for gold.

This has been brought on by a grey area looming over international and local sports for some time now. The varying degrees of cannabis legalization across the globe mean that it is perfectly legal for millions of adults to responsibly consume cannabis for recreational or medical purposes. But that does not mean that these policies have practically trickled down to the broader aspects of society. Particularly when it comes to professional sport.

South African Football Association scores own goal
The South African Football Association has just faced this awkwardness within their drug testing polices when kicking several players off of the SA Under-23 soccer team, for alleged dagga (cannabis) use. They have since gone on to call for increased drug testing. 

“We want to encourage the league and other football structures to bring back vigorous tests in football and other sports codes.”
“Such tests will create doping awareness among the players. We cannot afford to have a situation where our national teams are embarrassed in international competitions as a result of testing positive.”
“We haven’t seen a lot of testing being done recently. We have to find a way to bring back doping tests in the PSL. There’s no two ways about it.”
“This is to make sports free and fair, it’s also done to safeguard the health of the players and also about the integrity of the game.”

 

It is a global problem

South Africa was not the only one showing athletes the red card for cannabis use. Leading USA 100m sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson received a temporary ban just in time to dash away her Olympic dreams. This highlights how much there is for some to lose. While many athletic bodies continue to limply comply with seemingly unconstitutional policies. The paradox that everyone however seems to skirting around is the irony of how cannabis was prohibited by governments for pretty much being a performance suppressor. Yet it is now somehow finding itself being banned by government bodies for being a performance enhancer. The only thing that these polar points have in common is the lack of studies backing either claim. Yet these policies stubbornly persevere as officials continue to robotically sing from their hymn books.

This is something that many athletic bodies will continue to struggle with. The choice between getting realistic about cannabis use in sport or flouting the increasing rulings by constitutional courts. In favor of instead liberating users from a very dodgy and expensive prohibition. So as the important people in big board meetings make life changing decisions. The folks who shine the hardest for our nations will continue to find themselves as second class citizens. Simply for using something far safer than that bottle of beer for which the Olympics get paid billions of dollars to advertise.

The message is clear. Drink yourself to the floor and get the green light. Smoke so much as a single joint and get sent home. Or am I missing something?

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