The Winter Olympics start later this week, and it will be a time for athletes all around the world to prove their abilities. But you better not use marijuana, because the drug's still banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But why is that?

Other drugs banned by the IOC are for performance enhancing reasons. This includes the obvious substances, such as steroids, but also other illegal drugs. For instance, cocaine is banned because it's a stimulant that would boost an athlete's energy, and painkillers such as fentanyl and morphine are illegal because it would give athletes an unfair advantage in pain recovery.

Cannabinoids are banned by the IOC, and cannabis, hashish, and marijuana are all specifically mentioned as being illegal. The World Anti-Doping Agency has previously defended its ban of marijuana by saying that it causes an athlete's muscles to relax and would therefore give an unfair advantage when it comes to pain recovery. They also say that the drug could hurt a person's mental health, whatever that means.

Ironically, one of the most important compounds in marijuana is not banned: cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is the compound that is largely responsible for much of the drug's health benefits, including the pain recovery abilities that the IOC says are the reason it should be banned. 

There was also a time where marijuana was not banned in the Olympics. In 1998 a Canadian snowboarder was initially stripped of a gold medal after testing positive for a small amount of cannabis in his system. But the IOC then realized that marijuana wasn't specifically banned, and his medal was re-instated. They then officially banned cannabis in 1999.

The IOC does state that part of the reason they keep the drug illegal is to respect the laws of the countries participating. So perhaps until more of the world jumps aboard the legalization train, Olympic athletes will have to stay sober.

Good luck practicing for the Winter Olympics in Colorado then!

(h/t Big Think)