XFL, an alternative football league to the NFL, announced that it will no longer test its athletes for cannabis use. The announcement comes before the launch of the XFL’s 2020 season, which kicks off February 8th. The league had a single season during it’s experimental start in 2001, and the 2020 season represents its first time back since.
The league’s commissioner Oliver Luck stated that he would simply “rather not test for marijuana [sic].” While Commissioner Luck may be short on words regarding the decision, the move itself goes a long way in addressing one of the more perplexing trends in professional sports.
Cannabis Enforcement In Other Leagues
In North America, there exists a “big four” of professional sports: The National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL). According to Axios, over 80% of athletes within these leagues play for teams that are located in cities where cannabis is recreationally or medically legal. Despite this, all but one (the NHL) test their athletes for cannabis use and punish those who test positive.
In the NBA and NFL, players are tested at random throughout the regular season. The NBA also performs one random test during the offseason. The NFL, on the other hand, only does so to players with previous violations. In the MLB, athletes only receive tests if the league has “reasonable cause” to do so.
In all three leagues, the first violation leads to entering a drug treatment program. For further violations, players can receive fines that range into the tens of thousands as well as single or multiple game suspensions which, depending on the player’s salary, can cost them hundreds of thousands.
With their recent change in policy, the XFL joins the NHL as a professional sports organization that takes a more modern approach to the substance. The NHL does not test players for cannabis in a disciplinary fashion. Instead, they only note instances in which the levels of THC in a player’s blood work is at a “concerning level.” In such cases, the assigned physician may suggest treatment but will not notify the NFL or the press.
The NHL has been vocal about this policy, stating that its only desire relating to drug use is to ensure their players’ health. An anonymous NFL athlete voiced their support, claiming that individuals in such leagues are “elite athletes” who “know what’s best for [their] own bodies.”
What To Expect In The Future
The NHL and XFL currently stand alone in terms of their approach to cannabis testing. However, it seems that the tide could be changing in other sports leagues, as well. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has spoken about the potential for allowing cannabis use on a medical basis. He also recognized that, for some players, the inability to use cannabis could lead to excessive alcohol consumption.
The NFL is set to reexamine league rules in 2020 and has confirmed that cannabis use will be discussed. They, too, are only considering it on a medical basis. Recreational leeway may have to wait for country-wide legalization, as leagues are not likely to permit illegal behavior.