Water polo player Hesam Jefari of Iran has tested positive for carboxy-THC, a Class S.8 Cannabinoid, following an in-competition doping control test sanctioned by the Iranian National Anti Doping Organization (NADO). Iran’s NADO has ruled that Jafari’s punishment will be a four-year ban, which officially began on April 2nd of 2016.
While the punishment was ruled appropriate by the Iranian NADO, it raises interesting questions regarding “recreational” substances versus performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and the severity of sentences use of either should merit. At present, under Article 10.6 of the World Anti-Doping Code, if Jafari chose to argue that he did not take the cannabis in a sporting context, then he may at least be able to cut his sentence in half. The Sports Integrity Institute wrote about Jafari’s case this week, saying that while there are some instances in which an athlete may take cannabis in a sporting context, “water polo is not understood to be one of them.”
Regarding recreational substances, different countries and their respective NADOs tend to differ on what they deem appropriate punishments. For example, Canadian basketball player Nicola Terbasket was only sentenced to two months ineligibility after testing positive for cannabis on March 19th, 2016. Likewise, USADA sentenced cyclist Lauren Mulwitz to only six months of ineligibility after she tested above the limit of 180 ng/ML of Carboxy-Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, on June 7th of 2015. However, following Mulwitz’ reduced her sentence to only three months after she completed a USADA anti-doping educational tutorial, and her ban was lifted on October 9th of 2015.
Thus far Jafari has not protested the ruling by Iran’s NADO.