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We’re still more than a year away from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and Olympic skateboarding is already going to pot.
According to a press release published Tuesday by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), professional skateboarder Cory Juneau was handed a six month suspension from USA Skateboarding-sanctioned events last year after testing positive for THC before a contest in Brazil.
After finding weed in his system on January 28th 2018, Brazilian athletic authorities passed the case on to USADA, who then implemented the organization’s first-ever skateboarding suspension, before eventually decreasing the competitive ban from six to three months. Juneau, age 19, was reinstated on April 28th, 2018.
It is not entirely clear why USADA failed to announce Juneau’s suspension at the time it occured, and it is not yet known if Juneau was forced to miss any specific competitions, or how much money he stood to lose from those exclusions. But as skateboarding prepares to debut in next year’s Olympic games for the first time, Juneau’s situation suggests that skating’s love affair with weed will be hard to sweep under the rug.
Under official USADA guidelines, THC is only a prohibited substance “in-competition,” meaning that skaters are not tested for pot randomly throughout the year, but only before specific, sanctioned events. Since THC can remain in the human body for up to a month, though, skaters can still test positive, and be punished, for weed that was consumed weeks before it’s time to actually drop in.
According to the press release announcing Juneau's suspension, USADA officials noted that athletes can apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption for substances that are banned during competition, but the agency did not state whether any such exemption has ever been granted for THC consumption.
There’s at least one bit of silver lining from the situation, however, as it appears that Juneau’s sponsors — including Rockstar Energy, Vans, and Creature Skateboards — have stuck by their rider and continue to support the young skater. Compared to the typical corporate endorsement playbook, where other Olympic athletes have been dropped from their sponsors for positive pot tests, this is a reassuring sign that skateboarding will continue to buck the status quo of professional sports.
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