In light of the growing number of cannabidiol (CBD) products that can be purchased as oils, extracts, vape and e-liquids, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has issued an advisory note for athletes to provide information about the risks associated with the use of such products.  

CBD is one of around 110 known cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, which includes marijuana and hemp. The marijuana plant produces high THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) levels and low CBD levels. THC is the psychoactive component in all cannabis products, which gives users the ‘high’ feeling. It is a central nervous stimulant that can alter mood and sensory perceptions. Hemp plants tend to produce low amounts of THC and high levels of CBD. See What’s the difference between CBD oil and cannabis oil?  

CBD can be sold legally in the UK and is recognised as having medical benefits. As well as being used to ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and joint pain, it is claimed to promote sleep, boost appetite and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. CBD has also been claimed to help people with epilepsy manage their seizures.

CBD is not currently listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List. This means its use is permitted in sport. However, cannabinoids that activate the same receptors in the brain as THC are prohibited in competition. This includes cannabis, hashish and marijuana.

Most CBD products will contain a mixture of compounds that are derived from the cannabis plant (including THC). UKAD has listed the following factors that may influence the levels of THC within CBD products:

  • The variety of plant used
  • The part of the plant used
  • The refinement process used by the manufacturer
  • The preparation of the product

These factors make it challenging to provide a definitive answer on whether use of a product would lead an athlete to ingest enough THC to incur an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) should they be drug tested in-competition, says UKAD.

What are the risks of an athlete using CBD?

Despite the permitted status of CBD, UKAD says that athletes must still consider the risk of inadvertently ingesting a CBD product that either has a higher THC concentration than expected or contains another cannabinoid that is prohibited in sport.

A 2017 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association documented the detection of THC in some CBD products at levels higher than currently permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, a study published by Forensic Science International in 2018 also detected 5F-ADB (a prohibited cannabinoid) in commercially available CBD e-liquids in the USA.

UKAD advises athletes not to rely on manufacturer’s in-house tests for reassurance that the product they wish to use has a low THC content and is free from containing other cannabinoids that are prohibited in sport.

The use of any CBD product is at the athlete’s own risk, it says. As a result, CBD products should be considered in the same way as all other dietary supplements.

“That being, that strict liability will still apply and the appropriate sanctions [will be] imposed on any athlete returning an adverse analytical finding from any supplement product, as with all other cases of doping”.

A more in-depth article on the subject of CBD oil can be found on our Learning Centre. For information on any of AlphaBiolabs’ drug testing solutions, including our home drug testing kit, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at


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