Megan Rapinoe has never been shy about using the platform she’s been afforded through her success on the soccer pitch to be an advocate for any number of social justice causes.
And while becoming a brand ambassador for the CBD products from the company cofounded by her twin sister Rachael may not rise to the level of a noble cause like, say, the pay equity lawsuit Rapinoe and her US Women’s National Team are pursuing against US Soccer, it is still related.
Rapinoe believes that only good can come when active and retired athletes like herself, Rob Gronkowski, Bubba Watson, Joe Montana, and Greg Norman vouch for more natural pain options than what leagues currently sanction or make available.
“I think it’s been widely known and proven that the management doesn’t always have the best interest of the individual athlete at their hands,” said Rapinoe. “I think that you’ve seen that with us in our pay equity, we feel like we’ve been discriminated against and not treated fairly or equitably, (and) you can see that with the NFL players, they’ve had an opioid crisis for a long time, concussion results of those CTE tests were hidden from the players for a long time, opioid abuse is rampant in the NFL.”
Rapinoe sees the unique pitch-selling powers of athletes as being capable of not only persuading consumers and sports fans but also helping to de-stigmatize CBD products to the point where they become acceptable pain-relief alternatives in leagues where the products are still not sanctioned.
“I believe the power in the athlete in this particular field is incredibly strong because what we’re asking for is a better, safer alternative to pain management,” said Rapinoe. “Still, to this day, I think if I wanted to find somebody to give me an opioid prescription or a sleeping pill prescription or some other prescription drugs, I think that that would in many ways be easier and technically legal to give. Which, I think we’re seeing right now, has been horribly damaging to our country and to athletes as well.
“We put our bodies on the line, especially the more contact-oriented sports, and so I think that if athletes are pushing this forward and being at the forefront of this, demanding better workplace conditions, a safer way for them to be their best selves on the field and a safer alternative to pain management because pain management and injuries are all part of being an athlete, just part of the nature of it, I feel like it’s coming from within for these very valid reasons, I feel like that can be really powerful in moving conversation forward.”
Rapinoe said she believes in CBD and has used it “for a number of years so far, and I’ve seen really good benefits for me. It’s something that’s part of my daily routine now and something that’s certainly part of my recovery routine.”
She pushed back at the suggestion that the data supporting the pain-relief properties of CBD — the Rapinoe sisters’ company, the Portland, Oregon-based Mendi, promotes hemp-derived CBD products, meaning they are THC-free and won’t get you high — is not well-established.
“There actually is a lot of research done in the cannabis industry and on CBD, it’s just all (not) considered ‘white paper research,’ which means it hasn’t been published through universities or our federal government, which personally I feel is a huge disservice to the American people and the industry,” said Rapinoe. “There should have been and there should be right now government-funded studies so we can have credible data we want.”
Jordan Tishler M.D., instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, “absolutely” agrees with Rapinoe that the federal government needs to fund more large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled studies on the benefits of CBD. But to date, he said, those studies do not exist and only cannabis with THC has been shown to manage pain.
“There is some evidence that CBD can be an anti-inflammatory. However, that evidence is all based on test tubes and mice, and not human beings,” said Tishler. “There’s pretty good evidence that CBD in and of itself is not a pain reliever and there’s really no evidence that it is of any use in any exercise-related regimen as an enhancer or treatment for post-workout soreness or minor injury.”
What’s known is that the World Anti-Doping Agency, better known as WADA, has exempt cannabidiol (CBD) from its list of banned substances. And with Rapinoe wanting the purity and quality of CBD products to be enhanced so that both elite and casual athletes can trust the ingredients they are using, it’s clear that CBD products are not going away, certainly not with athletes at the forefront of seeking them out.
“I think that there are a lot of athletes very curious about CBD — I think generally as an athlete, you’re looking at the next piece of technology, whether it’s a wearable, how you can recover better or just what you can do to get that edge,” said Rapinoe. “And certainly I think the shift for athletes has been towards more natural products and products that have a more holistic approach, so CBD falls right into that obviously.”