Olympic Skateboarding in 2020 Raises Concerns Over Drug Testing

Zak Kaczmarek/Getty
Zak Kaczmarek/Getty / Zak Kaczmarek/Getty

With all of the problems facing this year’s Olympics in Rio, it may feel premature to start worrying about the summer games in 2020. But the introduction of skateboarding to the Tokyo Olympics has at least one veteran of the sport concerned. As ABC News reports, Australian skateboarding legend Tas Pappas believes that testing for marijuana may keep some top athletes from competing for the gold.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently approved skateboarding, along with surfing, sports climbing, karate, baseball, and softball for the 2020 Olympic games. Skateboarding has been a staple of the X Games since 1995, but the Olympics, which treats drug usage much more seriously, may attract a different type of competitor. At least that’s what Tas Pappas anticipates.

The championship skater told ABC News, "I'm wondering how it's going to work as far as the drug testing is concerned, because some guys skate really well on weed and if they have to stop smoking for one competition [the Olympics] it might really affect their performance."

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has relaxed their attitude towards marijuana since the last Olympic games. Before 2013, their threshold for the drug was 150 nanograms per milliliter, which is enough to catch some casual users weeks after the chemical enters their system. The standard has been raised to 10 times that in order to zero-in on athletes who take the drug that day. But for regular cannabis users, a positive test could still mean disqualification.

The perhaps tenuous connection between skateboarding and marijuana isn’t the only issue Pappas raised. He also pointed out that the same brand of national pride that drives Olympic teams isn’t felt as strongly in skating communities. "When you meet a bunch of skaters you don't feel like it's us versus them, it's just a bunch of guys getting together and want to have a skate,” he said to ABC News. We’ll have to wait until 2020 to see if an Olympic debut is enough to bring the counter-culture sport into the mainstream.

[h/t ABC News]

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