The Oregon Ducks rode into the NCAA Football Championship has a 6 point favorite, behind a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, but the team was short-handed due to the suspension of two players, wide receiver Darren Carrington and backup running back (and a major special teams player) Ayele Forde, who tested positive for marijuana use.
The loss of two key contributors compounded other injuries and problems and nothing should be taken away from the Ohio State team that won 42 to 20 and certainly seemed like the proverbial “team of destiny.” However, it would have been nice if Oregon wouldn’t have been distracted by an NCAA policy that is much more strict than the NFL or the Olympics and we wouldn’t be left to wonder whether the outdated policy cost a team a national championship..
The suspension of Carrington was especially problematic because the Ducks were already hurting at the wideout position and receivers that needed to step up in his absence didn’t, making some crucial drops. While Carrington ranked just fourth on the Duck in receiving yards and catches on the year, he had a monster game in the Rose Bowl against defending national champs Florida State, that got the Ducks to the title game.
It is ridiculous to assume that marijuana is a performance enhancing drug and while the NCAA has a right to its own policies, it’s threshold limit for marijuana use is drastically less than other sports. From Sports Illustrated:
The easiest way to quantify how strict the NCAA’s threshold is: Compare it to the threshold from other sports. The NFL increased its minimum threshold from 15 nanograms to 35 in September. The MLB’s minimum is 50 nanograms, the same level as airline pilots. The World Anti-Doping Agency set its minimum at 150 nanograms, a level at which an expert contacted by USA Today was quoted as saying, “[one has to be a] pretty dedicated cannabis consumer” to test positive.
From doing research and talking to experts, it’s difficult to pin down what flags a test at a given level. A daily smoker carries five nanograms of THC at most times. Mason Tvert, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, called the NCAA’s levels “a very, very low threshold.” He added, “Someone could fail even if they last used days or possibly weeks ago.”
So, does the NCAA need to change with the times? Seemingly, the answer is yes.
The country’s feelings and laws regarding cannabis are rapidly changing. Unfortunately, many long-standing institutions (hello, Congress) are very slow to adapt. As more states legalize cannabis for both medical and regular adult use, our institutions will finally catch up and marijuana won’t be treated any more harshly than alcohol or tobacco, regardless of the situation.