There has been an influx of CBD consumption by professional golfers like Bubba Watson in the PGA TOUR. Rumors have it that even Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have joined the CBD craze, leading many to believe that CBD is being embraced by athletes across all sports leagues. CULTURE spoke with Senior Vice President of Tournament Administration at PGA TOUR, Andy Levinson, to get clarification on official rules regarding CBD for the 2019 PGA TOUR, as well as insight regarding how players are navigating this recent transition.
The PGA TOUR allows its players to consume CBD products, due to the recent change in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) stance on cannabis. “CBD was previously prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency but was removed from their prohibited list in 2018,” Levinson told CULTURE.
The WADA is an international independent agency, and its key goals include scientific research, education and the development of anti-doping capacities and monitoring of The World Anti-Doping Code. This code is a document that harmonizes anti-doping policies in all sports across all countries. The World Anti-Doping Code contains a Prohibited List of Substances which is reviewed annually by a panel of international experts. Athletes are responsible for staying informed of these policies as well as any substance that enters their bodies. An Anti-Doping Rule Violation will occur whether or not an athlete intended to use a prohibited substance. The WADA website currently states that CBD is no longer prohibited because “cannabidiol is not a cannabimimetic and has no psychoactive activity.” Heeding caution to athletes, the code also notes that, “synthetic cannabidiol will not have THC but cannabidiol extracted from cannabis plants may also contain varying concentrations of THC, which remains a prohibited substance.”
According to Levinson, players are allowed to consume products strictly containing CBD isolate. “CBD in its pure form is not prohibited under the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program,” he said. If a player chooses to consume CBD products, they need to be independently cautious about which products they consume. “CBD products, like all supplements, are poorly regulated and, therefore, pose a risk to athletes subject to an anti-doping program. Since THC is prohibited, athletes are warned that use is at their own risk, and use of a CBD supplement is not an excuse for a positive test for THC,” Levinson added. A player will be sanctioned if they were to test positive for THC, even if they happened to test positive from ingesting a full spectrum CBD product, (a “whole plant” hemp extract, legally containing less than 0.3 percent THC).
“CBD in its pure form is not prohibited under the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program.”
Bubba Watson (a multiple major champion with victories at the Masters Tournament in 2012 and 2014), announced a two-year partnership with cbdMD in May 2019, and he claims to have personally experienced the benefits from CBD products. His partnership includes sporting the cbdMD logo on his headwear, which he wears on and off the green. Watson has some dialogue about the brand on his social media and is seen posing for a cbdMD group photo at the New York Stock Exchange on his Instagram. His fans on social media are welcoming to this new partnership, replying with statements like: “I’ve heard good things about CBD but I was on the fence. Since your post this morning I’ve pulled the trigger and bought some from @cbdmd.usa today.” While he’s still a champion of years past, Watson has been mathematically eliminated from the running for the remainder of the 2018-2019 season.
While CBD branding is being permitted for use and has been incorporated into PGA through sponsorship, there is no chance you’ll catch a player taking a quick puff from a vape pen on the sidelines, according to rules outlined by the WADA’s Cannabinoid Q&A. “Nebulizers are by definition inhalation devices and thus not prohibited as a method.” Tinctures, topicals and edibles are the more likely methods of consumption for the athletes who choose to incorporate CBD into their routines.
Golf fans who are unfamiliar with CBD may wonder why their favorite athletes would choose to consume or promote the consumption of this formerly prohibited substance. While there are many possible benefits that may be experienced through consistent ingestion of CBD, varying products, proper dosage and consumption methods are all key variables contributing to each individual’s experiences. Speaking generally, benefits such as inflammation reduction and the improvement of the quality of cognitive rest are likely of most interest to these professional athletes, though it surely varies per athlete.
CBD consumption should be cautious and steady, as is with the general journey of cannabis acceptance, be it into each new state, marketplace or local community. Levinson shared perspective from the PGA community about the benefits and risks of CBD. “There are a wide variety of claims made by manufacturers with very little substantive scientific research to support the purported benefits, so there is a healthy bit of skepticism,” he said. “While most professional sports leagues do recognize supplements that have been Certified for Sport by NSF, pose less risk than other supplements, to date, no cannabis-based supplements have been certified. Other than the claims made by the manufacturers and their own studies, there is unfortunately not much significant independent research on CBD products. Furthermore, without FDA oversight, there is simply no mechanism to ensure the safety of the thousands of products in the marketplace.” It may seem particular, but all-in-all, it’s fair. Skepticism is closer to understanding than absolute prohibition, so at least there’s room to grow.