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While states in the US are legalizing marijuana use, it still retains its illegality in many countries and in many states in the US. This, however, hasn’t stopped plenty of Olympic athletes from speaking out and stating that they support weed. It turns out, everyone who smokes weed doesn’t end up couch locked in front of a bowl of Doritos, just like everyone who drinks a beer doesn’t end up in the drunk tank.
Some go and earn a few Olympic gold medals instead.
When talking about the Olympics and cannabis, it’s an absolute necessity to include Poseidon’s little brother, Michael Phelps. Of all Olympians who support weed, Phelps might be the most recognizable and successful entrant on the list.
Phelps’s unprecedented Olympic swimming career resulted in him being an important role model and public figure. After finding his way into commercials and onto cereal boxes, Phelps found himself in a public scandal after pictures released of the young man smoking a bong (imagine how fast his lungs must clear that thing!)
Suddenly the incredible youth besting the rest of the world in swimming talent didn’t matter to a portion of the American public, who turned on him as a bad example for their kids. In America, recreational outrage is very common, and Phelps became one of the first victims of fake morals being championed in the media so that everyone could pretend they were holier than thou.
Because of course, smoking weed makes someone an evil human being, right?
Once the picture surfaced, Phelps then faced a three month ban on competitive swimming.
This, of course, didn’t slow down Phelps a single bit, and he has since become the world’s most decorated Olympic athlete, accumulating 28 Olympic medals before he retired.
And what was America doing when Phelps returned and gave the last performance of his incredibly storied career after they had punished him for being an Olympian who supports weed?
Legalizing marijuana use in some form across over half of the country, with some even legalizing it for recreational use.
And while Phelps might be the most notable name when it comes to Olympians who support weed, he most certainly isn’t the last.
Nicholas Delpopolo is an American judoka (or judo) fighter in the Olympics who competed both in 2012 and 2016. This means that Delpopolo also faced this era of American media-based hypocrisy as we shouted down any Olympic athlete connected to marijuana before simultaneously pushing for its widespread legalization in our country.
Delpopolo’s fight, however, was a little different than Phelps'.
First off, Delopopolo was not nearly as notable a figure as Phelps in public media. This is largely because Delpoplo has never demonstrated the level of competitive control Phelps exercised over the swimming pool, and while the judoka warrior put in significant work on the mat, his medal count wasn't as high, so the media took less interest.
But Delpopolo was on the front lines of the Olympic cannabis struggle. In 2012, he competed in the Summer Olympics. He was then expelled later the same year for testing positive for cannabis. Delpopolo claimed the test came from a marijuana edible he mistook for regular food.
Had Delpopolo reached the name recognition and pop culture saturation Michael Phelps had, this struggle might’ve done more damage to his image, but after keeping his nose to the grindstone Delpopolo returned for the 2016 Olympics, proudly competing for the America that had joined him in deciding “this whole public moral punishment thing doesn’t make sense.”
When it comes to Olympians who support weed, the candidates aren’t all just from America either.
If there were any sport someone would not expect a marijuana user to do well in, it would be sprinting. But that’s simply not the case. In fact one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, joins the club. He just so happens to be the fastest man in the world.
Bolt admitted that in his early days in Jamaica, he occasionally used cannabis. While there’s no proof he has since, Bolt has managed to keep this fact separated from his public perception as the absolute phenomenal athlete he is.
But on the global Olympics scale, Bolt might still have had a very negative reputation for this were it not for the efforts of one important original on the list of Olympians who support weed, Ross Rebagliati.
While by now a stereotype has formed when it comes to winter athletes, pairing snowboarders and cannabis in the minds of the masses, Ross Regabliati might’ve been the original.
Regabliati competed in the 1998 Olympics where he was awarded a gold medal. This, of course, was before he tested positive for THC.
After the tests, Regabliati faced an incredibly unique situation.
The Olympics at this time did not include marijuana on its banned substance list, meaning there was little if anything they could do about Regabliati taking home the gold for pot smokers at large.
It was shortly after this that marijuana was added to the banned list for Olympians at large. Imagine being the guy who caused the banned substance list inclusion of THC for the Olympics. And for taking the gold no less.
But don’t worry, Regabliati is enjoying the fruits of his labor. He now owns a medicinal marijuana company in Canada.
While marijuana found its way onto the banned substance list after Regabliati’s incident, it has also seen some changes since.
For instance, as of early 2013, Olympians who support marijuana can rejoice knowing that testing levels have been altered to differentiate active and passive use, and only active use during competition is punishable.
And while weed may not line up with steroids in terms of performance enhancement, it's at least a step in the right direction.