Will CBD Infused Sports Drinks Win With Athletes?

Canopy Growth Corporation buys ex-NHL player’s sports nutrition business

 Canopy Growth Corporation announced their purchase of a major stake in BioSteel Sports Nutrition. The Toronto-based sports nutrition company was co-founded in 2009 by former NHL athlete,Mike Cammalleri. BioSteel is known for their pink sports drink made for professional athletes, but they will soon be known for their newly developed cannabidiol (CBD) infused sports drink.

“This acquisition allows us to enter the sports nutrition space with a strong and growing brand as we continue towards a regulated market of food and beverage products that contain cannabis,” Canopy chief executive Mark Zekulin said in a statement.

“We view the adoption of CBD in future BioSteel offerings as a potentially significant and disruptive growth driver for our business.”

Cammalleri had a 17 year-long career with various teams including the Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers until 2018.

The 37-year-old suffered serious back pain toward the end of his career until his former teammate recommended CBD to treat pain. “My only regret is I didn’t find cannabis earlier in my career,” Cammalleri told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. “It was so effective for me.”

 “All effective in different ways. I like the oils, I like the creams, the roll-ons can work effectively, – the exciting part is the beverages we can provide that we think are going to be fantastic.”

BioSteel’s roster of athlete-endorsers includes Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Dallas stars forward Tyler Seguin, pro-golfer Brooke Henderson, tennis star Eugenie Bouchard, running back for the Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott and third baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 

The NHL still deems cannabis a “drug of abuse” and tests players for it in the course of testing for other performance-enhancing drugs, but doesn’t typically discipline players for using it. Other leagues – such as the NFL and NBA – have different strategies, and have been known to suspend players, while the Major League Baseball (MLB) can fine players for multiple marijuana infractions. 

Biosteel has current partnerships with USA Hockey, Canada Basketball, Athletics Canada and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. Cammalleri believes brand acceptance will help athletes recognize the value of CBD products including his former teammate and current Flames captain Mark Giordano.

 “I’m all for anything that’s natural that can replace a painkiller or a pill that has long-term damaging effects,” says Giordano.

“We as players are all for it. I will say though that a lot of us, myself included, won’t touch any of that stuff until it’s certified.

“If they can get a supplement that’s certified, that helps with pain, it’s really a no-brainer.”

Only candidates with high traces of cannabinoid compounds, when tested by the NHL would be referred to a  substance abuse and behavioural health program. However, Cammalleri believes the NHL should continue testing for marijuana. 

“In my experience, working with NHL trainers, strength coaches, physicians and executives, I think the NHL has been pretty progressive in what they’re trying to do,” he said.

A business analyst feels BioSteel’s roster of athletes could help the company score big.

“BioSteel’s brand ambassadors also include well-known athletes across major sports leagues in North America, which could be beneficial as the company’s attempt to push regulated CBD nutrition products into the mainstream health and wellness segments,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Douglas Miehm in a research note to clients.