Uncle Spliffy is the nickname of former Portland Trail Blazer and 18-year National Basketball Association-veteran Cliff Robinson. Robinson admits he was blazing while playing for the Blazers in the early 1990s, and says that smoking cannabis helped calm his nerves. Robinson also thinks team doctors should treat player pain with cannabis when indicated.
In the National Football League, America's professional football players use cannabis, either to treat chronic pain or simply to enjoy it. However, like all other professional sports leagues in America, the NFL bans its players from using cannabis. Several former NFL players have called for the league to rescind the ban on cannabis, which assumes that cannabis is not a so-called "performance-enhancing drug."
Although Robinson admits he did not like the Uncle Spliffy nickname at first, he is now using it as a brand name for what he calls "Sports Cannabis," or "marijuana designed for athletes." The brand has not launched yet, but is apparently aimed at helping users enhance their athletic performance. "When you talk about guys playing on a professional level, there's a lot of physical and mental stress that comes with that, and to have something available to you that has health benefits, I don't see the issue with it myself," says Robinson.
Robinson is not the only former athlete who is speaking up about how cannabis has enhanced his athletic performance. Ross Rebagliati won the first gold medal ever awarded for snowboarding, and he too used cannabis while performing as a world-class athlete. Rebagliati says cannabis helps him focus like nothing else can and talks about the value of cannabis for taking away the drudgery and distractions of the elite athlete's highly repetitive daily workout. "All the distractions of your phone, the people next to you working out, it just goes away, and you're just going to pound out the workout," says Rebagliati.
Whereas the NFL does not call cannabis a performance-enhancing drug, the World Anti-Doping Association does. It supports its ban on cannabis by citing studies showing that cannabis can decrease anxiety and increase airflow to the lungs by dilating the bronchial tubes. On the other hand, cannabis has been shown to decrease motor coordination and increase heart rate, which would have a negative impact on performance.
Nevertheless, there is a deep physical connection between cannabis and exercise. During exercise, the body produces endocannabanoids, which are compounds that, among other things, ease pain and elevate mood. These endocannabanoids cause the famous runner's high, and cannabis is thought to work the same way on the brain. The bottom line is that there is very little scientific research on the effect of cannabis on athletic performance, and the true picture will not be known until the federal government eases its ban on cannabis research funding.