THE KETTLE CALLING THE “POT” BLACK- Rising Above Hypocritical Cannabis Condemnation as a Professional Athlete

 

I am who I am. I have reached a place in my career to embrace a fearlessness for allowing my values and principles to shine through, whether or not they fit other people’s expectations.

 

Most of us have felt, at one time or another, that we need to strategically tailor ourselves to our environment, sometimes at the cost of compromising our own values, to be accepted, negotiate a deal, or get paid. I believe in being adaptable and willing to compromise, but I also believe that we cannot contribute to the best of our ability, if we are not honestly representing ourselves.

 

It is with this perspective in mind, that I made a, somewhat radical, decision this year to partner with the locally, Reno-owned KYND Cannabis Company and the MYNT Dispensary, as the first ever professional athlete, cannabis ambassador in Northern Nevada. I am extremely proud to represent this quality brand and the cannabis industry. Though I am not a heavy marijuana user, myself, this partnership represents a greater philosophical statement about me.

 

I am taking a significant risk and jumping into controversial territory. Most professional athletes who have come out as advocates for cannabis do not do so until after their careers are over, for fear of immediate repercussions. That is exactly the reason why I feel the need to take this stance, while I am still in the prime of my competitive professional career.

 

As of November 9, 2016, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, and is federally illegal. It is also NOT a legal substance according to the governing bodies of cycling: USA Cycling (USAC), Union Cycliste Internacionale (UCI), U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Some of the language in their policies point to marijuana use as “unsportsmanlike” or “performance enhancing”. I look forward to bigger conversations with these agencies to learn more about their position.

 

In the meantime, I primarily race enduro mountain biking, which is still a relatively new, unsanctioned cycling discipline, and, during my cyclocross season, I will comply with the governing UCI rules and refrain from using cannabis, until there can be further discussion. Regardless, I am moving forward unapologetically, and I look forward to being on the leading edge of these conversations, that warrant deeper analysis.

 

Marijuana has been stigmatized for a long time and it’s time for us to talk about it openly and honestly. Without digging too deep into the turbulent history, we know that many legal issues surrounding marijuana came from roots of racism and corporate and government control. As it’s become increasingly available, more studies are being done that illuminate the scientific medical benefits of marijuana for a huge variety of ailments, from insomnia to cancer. The benefit that marijuana is having for veterans, aging baby-boomers, people struggling with depression, and other mental health issues is astounding. In many cases, marijuana is proving to be a viable, less-addictive alternative to opioids, and opioid addiction has become a national epidemic. More information can be learned about the benefits of cannabis, with the growing legalization. As an example, the cannabinoid, CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of 113 identified cannabinoids, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and provides pain relief and calms anxiety. As an athlete, the CBD tinctures and creams are extremely useful for injuries and sore muscles.

 

Beyond medical, I am also an advocate for marijuana as a regulated, recreational substance. We have hidden behind the one-dimensional mask of medical use for long enough, and, though the medical benefits are extremely relevant, it is a substance that people, obviously, consume for psycho-active purposes too. Similar to alcohol, I believe strongly in the regulation of marijuana, so the consumption is done responsibly and at the legal age. As adults, we have the ability to make responsible decisions for ourselves.

 

There is always an opportunity for substance abuse but one of the best ways to enable people to make good decisions is education, dissemination of new information, and open dialogue. Also, in the realm of mountain biking and outdoor recreation, weed is already rampant. Let’s talk about it.

 

The reality is, humans have a tendency to seek out mind altering experiences. Even athletics, themselves, create an altered state of mind and I know numerous people who are completely addicted to exercise. Too much of a good thing can still result in addiction.

 

I acknowledge the legitimate concerns surrounding the abuse of recreation and prescription drugs. Depending on the substance, the abuse of a substance can sometimes be the symptom not the cause. We all know someone who has been traumatically affected by substance abuse. Sometimes this results from a lack of education or family/community support or mental illness… and sometimes it is for darker reasons like corporate greed and manipulation by pharmaceutical and alcohol companies, which brings me to my next point.

 

I am also choosing to partner with the KYND Cannabis Company to call attention to the hypocrisy of our social acceptance of pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol and the stigmatization of marijuana. Let’s call into question the status quo. The Tour of California in 2017 was sponsored by AMGEN, the title sponsor, a well-known big pharmaceutical company and producer of EPO (a red-blood-cell-increasing drug, illegal in cycling and most sports). How is it that the money from this company causes us to overlook the damaging message of having an EPO producer sponsoring one of the largest national road races, when road racing has been notoriously plagued with EPO and other doping scandals??

 

I have been given a speaking platform as a professional athlete and I do not take my position lightly. It is my responsibility to be a role-model and demonstrate critical thinking, responsibility, integrity, an open mind, and a child-like sense of wonder. The concerns and hesitation around marijuana are relevant, and I am fully receptive to all sides of the issue and I still have a lot to learn. Most importantly, I hope you are willing to ask questions, do research, take some calculated risks, and learn along with me. Whether people are ready for this topic and legislation to be on the table or not, it is.

 

Weed is officially legal for recreational purchase and consumption for adults 21 and older in Nevada today, July, 1st 2017
http://www.kynd.com/

It Must Be Experienced

I was recently told a story about a mother who walked with her daughter a couple miles into town in -60 degree wind-chill and snow blowing sideways because she told her child, “it must be experienced”.
 
Simple, yet profound. My personal struggle is to shift the focus back to experiencing, NOT sharing.
 
I catch myself, in the midst of an experience, thinking about how something could be photographed or recorded or captured in 140 characters to document the event/idea/moment/thing/scenery and disseminate the information.
 
It sounds selfish talking about experiencing it and not sharing, but, let’s be honest, in this era, it’s the sharing that can be more narcissistic. We have the ability to share with EVERYONE…it seems. We are focused on making sure everyone else knows about our “experiencing”. And yet while we are capturing our “experiences” to share, are we actually experiencing the experience we are sharing?
 
Of course, we can do both. But let’s make sure we truly are.
 
Ask yourself, would you still be doing whatever it is that you’re doing, even if there is no one to witness it or validate it?
 
Communications and connections, virtual and in person matter, but, I am striving to get off the grid and unplug and experience things for myself in a mysterious, un-shareable way too.
 
Ironically, sometimes it’s what we read, see and watch, that others have shared, that inspire us to seek out new experiences. As I hope this post I am sharing will do for you.
 
The hypocrisy of my own sharing in this moment makes me laugh at the conundrum.
 
The point still remains, “it must be experienced”!
 

WTF am I doing!? Part IV: Patience

I’m not done yet and I am looking forward to a powerful, fearless 2017. The manifestation of a rock-solid sense of self.
 
All good things take time and it’s hard to be a patient person. As I step back and give myself more space to figure things out and make mistakes, I am discovering more open doors on my crooked trail.
 
I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up but, for now, I’m focusing on what I do know. I still want to be a professional mountain biker and cyclocross racer, share some skills and my passion with anyone who will listen, learn from other remarkable people, be inspired, and pay my bills every month.
 
Edward Abbey has been a reoccurring theme in my life recently, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence. There are a lot of silly quotes out there that sound like words of wisdom but are really nothing more than cheap talk, pretending to be inspirational. Mr. Abbey, on the other hand, speaks the truth.
 

 
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.” – Edward Abbey

WTF am I doing!!? Part III: All is Fair in Love and War and Marketing

I did not formally study marketing but the education is all around me, inescapable. We are force-fed examples of what to do and what not to do daily. I am still coming to terms with this world, sometimes kicking and screaming.
 
Admittedly, marketing is not my perfect niche but it has taught me a lot. Trying to do it well has sometimes left me feeling shameless and uncomfortable. I also struggle with sharing something of relevance when there are so many other voices out there all wanting to be relevant.
 
This brings us to the “curse of comparison”.
 
We are comparative creatures and it is easy to get swept up in looking at each other’s journeys for a point of reference to tell us how we’re doing. The truth is, it’s usually frivolous and irrelevant, but that never stops us from comparing and judging. Comparison can lead to creativity and advancement but it can also create jealously, envy and insecurity.
 
One of the greatest irrationalities is thinking that life is supposed to be fair.
 
Marketing myself, inherently puts my self-worth on the line. I don’t get to disconnect from my brand, or at least, I haven’t figured out how do that yet. I am not objective. Every rejection and disappointment is a personal affront.
 
My brand is me, the process of building it sometimes makes me feel diminished.
 
However, this raw experience also gives me a powerful understanding of myself and the confidence to try again.
 
Just as competition is really about competing against oneself, even when there are other competitors next to you, marketing is very personal, even when it feels like it’s about everyone else.
 
There is some piece of this journey that I hope everyone can relate to. It’s a journey about never-ending self-discovery, risk taking and leaping without looking. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’ll get back to you on whether or not it’s been worth it.

WTF am I doing!!? Part II: 2016 Unplugged

My 2016 season can be summed up in the following description: I traveled to cool places, raced, won, got injured, shared my story, made new connections, adventured, trained, fell down A LOT, got back up, struggled to juggle everything, put on an event, ran out of time, got sick, had a comeback, got creative, built fresh partnerships, got tired and jaded, questioned myself and I remerged with new energy.

WTF am I doing!? Part I: Branded

What does it mean to advocate for oneself?  This is the question that has lead me on my journey down the rabbit hole.

In 2016, I embarked on a new exciting adventure to see if I could piece together my own program of support and continue my career as a full-time professional cyclist; This means, surviving financially and still being able to perform athletically at the highest level.

Previously, I had the support of several incredible cycling teams that fostered my skills and taught me about the cycling industry and the meaning of being a top athlete.

For a lot of reasons, I chose to walk away from the team structure and launch myself down the path of building my own brand.

My favorite part of this process has been developing relationships.  The slowest part, if done right and sincerely, without haste, is developing relationships…

Fortunately, I did not start from scratch in 2016.  I already had past credibility and connections in my sport. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  My solo path has been the ultimate risk taking experience.

The term “Brand building” is a catchy, iconic, buzz phrase these days but it is very relevant in professional athletics.

In my position, advocating and brand-building means promoting, marketing, and selling me.   I am not defined only by my performance and ability as an athlete.   I’m selling my personality, my work ethic, my relatability, my appearance, my connections, my messaging and philosophies, my values, my failures and successes, my ability to speak, lead, write, teach, train, coach, share, be photographed, create content, write proposals, provide feedback, promote, inspire, be interesting, be articulate and insightful, be professional, be available and vulnerable but also exclusive and fearless and WIN.

These expectations apply to a lot of people and It’s an incredible amount of pressure and a difficult and rewarding journey.

So, was my 2016 season a success?…

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