6 Mar 2019

Sport anti-doping agency to keep cannabis on prohibited list

5:48 pm on 6 March 2019

Drug Free Sport has told MPs that cannabis will remain off-limits for athletes even if New Zealand votes to legalise it.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The anti-doping agency was quizzed about its official position on the drug at Parliament's Social Services and Community select committee today.

Chief executive Nick Paterson told the committee New Zealand was bound by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, which banned athletes from using cannabis in-competition above a certain limit.

"Cannabis will remain on the prohibited list. It will not affect what we do in sport if [the drug] is decriminalised or otherwise," Mr Paterson said.

He told MPs the agency would need to educate athletes about the drug's continued prohibited status, but that would "not necessarily" require extra funding.

"We want to protect our clean athletes so they don't make a mistake."

Board chairman Warwick Gendall QC said the agency would have to "very carefully monitor what sort of money" would be required for that education and potential testing.

Drug Free Sport has previously lobbied WADA to remove cannabis from its prohibited list due to research showing cannabis does not "enhance" performance in all sport.

Mr Gendall said the agency would continue to make that case.

"It is something we are still looking at and making submissions to the WADA board about whether there can be further amelioration or even removal of it.

"[But in the meantime] we have to obey what WADA say, because they are the United Nations, like it or not."

The agency had not yet been asked to consider the upcoming referendum or its impact, Mr Gendall said.

Sport and Recreation New Zealand, which also appeared at the committee, confirmed it had also not begun any policy work on the subject.

National MP Nikki Kaye told RNZ she was disappointed with the lack of thinking by both agencies.

"This is a massive change for New Zealand. Everything I understand from other jurisdictions is that it will have huge implications around sport, the testing... they need to do a lot more work to be better prepared."

National MP Maureen Pugh quipped the agency might have to rename itself "Almost Drug Free Sport New Zealand" given its push to remove cannabis from WADA's prohibited list.

Mr Gendall said it had at one stage considered changing its name to "Clean Sport New Zealand" but was advised against it.

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