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Smoking marijuana helps professional athletes: Truth or misconception?

Mike Tyson, Allen Iverson, marijuana

It has been a debate for years and even to this day, some are convinced that smoking marijuana really is an unconventional way for professional athletes to become better at what they do.

Cannabis, the scientific name for the hemp plant, which marijuana is basically from, is still prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. In simpler terms, professional athletes from any sport should not have marijuana in their system.

However, many are still fuming about it as they reckon that unlike other PED’s (performance-enhancing drugs), there has been no scientific evidence that prove marijuana helps and makes athletes stronger, or just slightly better than the rest.

This has been the narrative of Sha’Carri Richardson’s botched Tokyo Olympics run. It can be recalled that the American sprinter was denied a spot in the prestigious tournament after testing positive for marijuana.

Once again, Richardson’s story sparked debates amongst sports fans as the battlecry insisted marijuana doesn’t boost an athlete’s performance. Therefore, what’s the point in disqualifying Richardson.

In fact, one thing that seems to be closer to reality is that smoking marijuana even messes up athletic performance, that’s according to exercise physiologist and anesthesiologist Dr. Michael J. Joyner, who also studies elite athletes at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“If you look at any test of physical performance, there’s either no data, it’s a wash, or marijuana makes it worse,” Joyner said via The New York Times.

If Joyner was right, then former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson may have been telling a lie.

In 2019, “Iron Mike” famously claimed that “he and his business partner, Eben Britton, smoke around $40,000 worth of pot a month,” via USA Today.

One year later, Tyson made a shocking return to boxing through an exhibition fight against his fellow boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. To everyone’s surprise, Tyson, at age 54, put on an impressive 8-round performance.

Aside from Tyson, NBA legend and former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson is also a living example that marijuana or “weed” doesn’t hinder an athlete from performing at his best.

Since his rookie year in the NBA, Iverson has been a weed-smoker and he definitely was an exceptional basketball player.

Iverson never stopped smoking until he left the NBA in 2010. Based on his total averages, weed seems to have done nothing bad on “The Answer” who recorded a remarkable 26.7 points, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

Al Harrington is another former NBA star who has also been smoking marijuana ever since he can remember. Along with Iverson, Harrington is working on diminishing the “stigma” that smoking marijuana makes athletes “unproductive and lazy.”

“It’ll open up the conversation,” Harrington recently told GQ while promoting Iverson’s own marijuana strain called “Iverson 96.” “These guys do use cannabis on a daily basis and that stigma of, you smoke and you’re unproductive or lazy, that shit goes out the window. Right now in professional sports — being that it’s pretty much allowed in all leagues right now, in some shape, form or fashion — the level of play is still through the roof. 85 percent of the players in the [NBA] smoke, bro. Or use some type of cannabis.”

The former Golden State Warriors forward went on to explain that smoking weed has been athletes’ unique way of recreation as some are not aware that they also deal with a lot of stress.

“It’s a safe and alternative way to deal with s—t,” he claimed. “Yes, we are supermen. We do make a lot of money. But we have a lot of stress and s–t on our plate. Constantly. So what is our vice? What can we use to get away? What’s available to us? Cannabis is recreationally available or decriminalized in 18 NBA markets. So, I pay taxes in this state, I hoop in this state, and you’re trying to tell me I can’t go to the dispensary? It makes no sense.”

While some may think that Harrington has a point, the American Lung Association, meanwhile, begs to disagree.

According to the organization, marijuana smoke contains basically a lot of the same toxins and carcinogens which could also be found in tobacco smoke.

Atop that, the fact that some marijuana smokers tend to inhale and hold their breath longer than that of those who smoke normal cigarettes, they are exposing themselves to more tar.

“Smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung,” the statement read. “Regular use leads to chronic bronchitis and can cause an immune-compromised person to be more susceptible to lung infections.”