This paper examines current policies towards drug use in sport to evaluate their appropriateness. The focus is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) attitudes and policies towards athletes’ use of recreational drugs. Since recreational drugs such as marijuana are not performance-enhancing, one of the most frequently used arguments to justify doping controls – that those involved in drug use derive an unfair advantage over other competitors – cannot be used to justify controls on the use of such drugs. Given this, it is suggested that the attempt to control the use of marijuana within a sporting context is best understood in terms of the growing concern about drug ‘abuse’ within the wider society. The paper further suggests that the WADA has used the ‘spirit of sport’ argument to reach beyond traditionally accepted sporting concerns. In this regard, WADA is using anti-doping regulations to police personal lifestyle and social activities that are unrelated to sporting performance. On this basis, it is concluded that WADA’s focus and resources should return to enforcing sporting values related to doping rather than policing athletes’ lifestyles, and it is therefore suggested that the ban on marijuana and similar recreational drugs should be lifted.Conclusion and suggestionsDrug abuse in athletes is a significant problem that has many potential underlying causes. The drive to be the best in sport dates to ancient times, as does the use of performance-enhancing substances. With the ever-mounting pressures faced by athletes, it is not surprising that drug abuse by athletes exists across essentially all sports and age groups.Suggestions for those undertaking research and clinical work with athletes include:If providers become aware of an athlete using PEDs, they should educate the athlete about the potential risks of continued use, regardless of any evidence that suggests this may not be influential for all athletes. Providers should encourage discontinuation of the abused substance(s).There is great variance in drug testing programs in different sports and at different levels of competition.13 More high-quality, prospective, randomized trials should be undertaken to determine the deterrent efficacy of various types of PED screening programs, and changes should be made to those types of screening programs found to be ineffective.8Physicians, trainers, coaches, parents, and others in the athlete entourage need to be well trained in recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug abuse, including changes in physical health and behaviors (Table 3).Table 3Common signs and symptoms of substances relatively commonly used by athletesThe efficacy of education about PED use as a preventative measure needs further study. Early integration of well designed prevention curricula into sports programs may be beneficial.8 However, as alluded to earlier, at least one preliminary study suggests that educational programs that solely emphasize the negative effects of PEDs may be ineffective for young athletes.67Mental health professionals should be included in the network of team doctors and other health care providers readily available to athletes. Psychiatrists are often helpful in developing strong drug prevention policies that emphasize education and treatment and not just sanctions.13 Mental health care professionals should have a year-round presence with the athletes and teams with whom they are working so as to build trust.13Screening for and treatment of underlying mental illnesses such as depression that may contribute to self-treatment with drugs by athletes should be increased. The effectiveness of this screening should be studied.Athletes who are using drugs are often skeptical of the medical field. This may be partly with good reason, as many health care professionals are unfamiliar with the mentality of athletes or common drug abuse patterns in this population. Accordingly, referral networks or team assistance programs consisting of health care professionals familiar with these issues should be established for athletes and teams.62 The effectiveness of these models should be studied.Research should examine differences in treatment approaches that may be needed for athletes who have been using drugs for a shorter versus longer period of time.Trainers, coaches, and health care providers should provide evidence-based, safe alternatives to PED use, including optimal nutrition, weight-training strategies, and psychological approaches to improving performance, all of which may help with athletes’ confidence in their natural abilities.Drug scandals in sports – At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Alistair Overeem is known for putting mixed martial arts star Brock Lesnar into early retirement. Ahead of a heavyweight title match against UFC champion Junior dos Santos in May, Overeem tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and was yanked from the card.