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A Brief History of Hemp Use in Sports

Sports and hemp-derived cannabis have had several run-ins. The nature of these interactions has ranged from the infamous to the mundane. For instance, a coach allegedly allowing his key players to smoke cannabis before crucial matches, or up and coming prospects who lost a lot of money due to a viral video of them smoking industrial hemp strains minutes before the annual draft.

As you will see, this timeline discusses the history of hemp use in sports. The past few decades, in particular, have standout moments highlighting cannabis use in various games. Throughout history, athletes and sporting commissions have had varying views about hemp-based CBD use. Some wanted it to be illegal, while others wished that organizations legalized it.

In short, there are several complications. So, without further ado, let us take a close look at the history of hemp use in sports. 

The early Seventies (Bill Walton – Basketball Player)

Bill Walton's former spouse Susie Walton claimed in an interview that her husband's coach John Wooden allowed him to smoke cannabis and let him play for the team. He did not offer this option to other teammates.

She further claimed that despite Wooden's strict disciplinary attitude, he let things slide with Bill Walton. The athlete still denies that he used CBD hemp extract and that it was his word against that of his former spouse.

Mid-Eighties (James Hunt – Formula 1 Racer)

James Hunt's son once told a story about his father getting chased by the Scotland Police. The formula one driver did not want the officials to pull him over as he had a copious amount of hemp cannabis in his car's trunk. Hunt, being the championship driver that he was, outdrove the cops.

February 1995 (Warren Sapp – Former NFL Player)

Hall of Famer Warren Sapp had great potential during the 90s. Fans and experts thought that he would be NFL's number one draft pick for 1995. The National Football League's Scouting Combine conducted a drug test in February 1995, which Warren unfortunately failed. He tested positive for using hemp-derived cannabis and dropped down to number 13, playing for Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite this significant obstacle, Warren had a great career and even won the Super Bowl.

November 1996 (JR Rider – Former NBA Player)

Two days before his debut with the Trail Blazers, JR Rider was caught smoking a cannabis cigarette hidden in a soda can. After seizing the can and thoroughly investigating it, the Deputies found out that it was particularly designed to turn it into a smoking appliance that could store a small quantity of liquid hemp extract.

May 2007 (Ricky Williams – Former NFL Player)

Ricky Williams was one of the first players to speak about cannabis with hemp-extract benefits publicly. He failed a few drug tests during his career, due to which he supposedly gave up cannabis use and took up yoga. Surprisingly, a year later, he failed a drug test anyway. Ricky continued to play as a running back for some years. After his retirement, he carried on advocating for cannabis and claimed that it is a perfect mood stabilizer and pain reliever for athletes. It was because of his undying support for CBD that other athletes and sporting commissions started to change their opinions regarding CBD use.

February 2009 (Michael Phelps – Olympic Gold Medalist)

Michael Phelps is perhaps the best Olympics swimmer in the world. His list of accolades is enough to convince people who claim otherwise. One year after the Beijing Olympics, someone leaked a photo of him smoking a bong with hemp-based cannabis. Phelps lost two major sponsorships due to this incident. Nevertheless, Phelps'   skills and confidence remained intact, and he ended up winning two silver medals and four gold medals in the London Games 2012, and 5 gold medals and one silver medal at Brazil's Rio Games 2016.

August 2016 (Nate Diaz – UFC Fighter)

Nate Diaz is a proud CBD enthusiast. During a post-fight press conference in 2016, Nate was openly using a hemp-based cannabis vape pen. Reporters asked him why he was such a strong advocate for hemp-derived CBD, and the martial artist stated that it helped him with inflammation and healed his body quickly. Nate further said that he'd take hemp-derived products before and after his fights. His brother Nick Diaz, who is a former UFC fighter, is also a huge proponent of cannabis.

The Sports World Is Slowly Accepting Hemp

As more athletes show signs of improvement through hemp-based cannabis use, sporting authorities are revising and relaxing their stance regarding it. Nevertheless, athletes only suggest using hemp-derived CBD products with low THC levels before matches.