Guest Blog: The Many Faces Of Marijuana In Professional Sports

Guest Post By Rachel Stires

When someone mentions major athletes, it’s easy for a particular person to come to mind. Whether it’s one of your favorite football players or a recent Olympic gold medalist, there are many different faces that have been burned into our memories when talking about sports. This includes the scandalous, the controversial, and sometimes the cases of athletes being terminated or suspended for illegal or improper behaviors. When it comes to marijuana and professional sports, there have been multiple cases of pot-smoking athletes suffering suspension and voided contracts, but also messages of hope and advocacy.

Perhaps one of the most notable athletes that uses marijuana and used it during his career is Ricky Williams. Williams has a long career in the NFL and numerous awards from his college days, but has clashed with the NFL regarding his cannabis use. Now, Williams is a strong advocate for medical marijuana, including for athletes who are dealing with physical or mental health issues. Williams spends his days further researching the medical benefits of the plant and pursuing various ventures in the cannabis industry. “Pain is part of life,” he states, “but suffering doesn’t have to be, and if we can find a way to help people suffering from anything, let’s do it; I think it’s our responsibility as human beings.”

In light of Andrew Bogut’s recent leg injury, the Cleveland Cavaliers are considering two players to replace him, one of them being the next on our list: Larry Sanders. Sanders played for the Milwaukee Bucks for 5 years, ending his career with two suspensions for marijuana use. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sanders explains “I will deal with the consequences from it. It’s a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it.” Since his retirement, he has been pursuing various creative ventures, but as of January 26th, Sanders has announced that he will be returning to basketball. On top of that, there are now rumors of him joining the Cavaliers to replace Bogut. Only time, and Sanders, will tell.

You’ve probably noticed that Williams is retired, and Sanders is currently inactive. It might seem a little weird to not talk about athletes that are still active, but the reality is that talking about marijuana use among current players is still taboo. That’s because it can be a very real threat to their careers. The NFL, NBA, and MLB all test for marijuana for various reasons, and the punishments for said usage can be heavy. There are hints, rumors, and statistics floating around about how many pro-athletes actually use cannabis, but we’re never going to know just how many do until it becomes legalized or less restricted. Until then, we’re going to continue to see gifted players like Williams and Sanders suspended, made infamous, fade away from a sport they’re passion about, and become another statistic.


Rachel Stires is a media relations specialist for the Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida. In her spare time, she takes a special interest in health and fitness, including alternative treatments to common ailments.

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