Andrew Kanerva’s MA Thesis Defence – March 2

Title: Cannabis Use in High Performance Sport: An Exploration

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Andrea Bundon
Committee Members: Dr. Brian Wilson, Dr. Michael-John Milloy
Chair: Dr. Moss Norman

Abstract: Cannabis use is undergoing a process of normalization, which is allowing for cannabis use to transition from a once deviant social behaviour to remerge as a common lifestyle choice (Duff et al., 2012). On October 17th, 2018, recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Canada. Since then, cannabis use has increased nationally (Statistics Canada, 2019); this increase has been fueled by cannabis prevalence, availability, and accommodating attitudes of non-using individuals. However, cannabis remains prohibited for varsity athletes. Consequently, athletes who use cannabis maintain separate and competing identities as an athlete and a cannabis user. Noting both the proliferation of cannabis use culture in Canada and the prohibition of cannabis use for varsity athletes, this study employed a qualitative, phenomenological approach to situate cannabis use within a sociocultural context and to explore cannabis use amongst men and women varsity athletes from the University of British Columbia. The findings revealed that cannabis use amongst varsity athletes is prevalent and that the participants motives for using cannabis were purposeful. Additionally, the participants used cannabis in ways, at times, and in contexts that allowed them to maintain their dual, competing identities. The study also investigated athletes lived experiences of using cannabis and explored how varsity athletes presented themselves while they used cannabis. The findings highlighted that the participants believed that using cannabis was a discreditable behaviour, which did not support their athlete identity. As a result, the participants experienced feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation when they used cannabis and only presented their cannabis use to selected audiences.