By TIM REYNOLDS – AP Basketball Writer
The NBA has agreed to not randomly test players for marijuana this season, a continuation of the policy that was put in place last year for the COVID-19 “restart bubble” and has remained since.
Drug testing will continue for things such as human growth hormone and performance-enhancers, along with what the league calls “drugs of abuse” — such as methamphetamine, cocaine and opiates. But the league’s agreement with the National Basketball Players Association over random marijuana tests will continue for at least another season.
“We have agreed with the NBPA to extend the suspension of random testing for marijuana for the 2021-22 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said Wednesday.
The agreement was revealed to players in a memo from the union, the details of which were first reported by ESPN. The league suspended testing in March 2020 when play was suspended in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, then agreed with the players to test for performance-enhancers in the bubble at Walt Disney World that summer.
But marijuana wasn’t on that list, wasn’t tested for last season and now won’t be this season either.
Decriminalizing marijuana has been a major topic at the government level for years, as has been the case in the sports world as well. Earlier this year, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was left off the U.S. team’s Olympic roster following a positive test for marijuana, costing her a chance at running on the 4×100 relay team in Tokyo, in addition to her spot in the 100-meter individual race.
After Richardson’s suspension was announced, two members of Congress — U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., — wrote U.S. and global anti-doping leaders to say in part that “the ban on marijuana is a significant and unnecessary burden on athletes’ civil liberties.”
More than half of the states in the U.S. have decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana.