It’s been a long journey from Nevada handing Nick Diaz a five year ban from competition in 2015 over a failed drug test for cannabis (his third offense in MMA associated to the substance), to 2021 and the news that USADA is moving to stop punishing fighters for recreational drug usage. A move that appears as though it’s intended to stop handing out fines and suspensions to fighters not simply for cannabis associated items, but for leisure drug usage in general.
Notwithstanding any other provision in this Article 10, (i) when a violation of Articles 2.1 or 2.2 involves a Substance of Abuse and (ii) the Professional athlete can develop by a preponderance of the evidence that the offense did not enhance, and was not planned to enhance, the Professional athlete’s performance in a Bout, then, offered that the foregoing clauses (i) and (ii) are satisfied, the otherwise applicable duration of Ineligibility might be reduced or removed, as identified by USADA in its sole discretion based upon the Professional athlete’s participation in a rehab program as provided listed below.
The UFC Prohibited List defines “Substances of Abuse” not simply as cannabinoids– such as THC– but likewise narcotics including heroine, fentanyl, oxcodone and others. The list also includes stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy.
However, as is noted in the paragraph above, and throughout the pertinent Anti-Doping Policy areas, USADA has not really eliminated punishments for leisure substance abuse. But rather developed a structure through which fighters might avoid penalty if they fail drug tests, notably through completion of rehab programs.
In a fascinating twist, fighters who do use THC during training might find themselves better served to declare that use is completely leisure instead of in service of any type of therapeutic or recovery aid. USADA’s news release particularly states that things like “alleviating pain” and “stress and anxiety” would be considered efficiency enhancing usage.
The majority of substantial to the brand-new guideline modifications, a UFC athlete who evaluates favorable for carboxy-THC (the main psychedelic component in marijuana) will deal with a violation by USADA only if proof demonstrates the substance was taken for performance-enhancing functions such as minimizing discomfort or anxiety; otherwise the athlete will not be qualified for sanction. A favorable test for the restricted compound, THC, will result in an irregular finding that will just be considered a violation if it fulfills the aforementioned condition.
Journalism release does go on to note that CBD items “have never ever been prohibited under the UFC policy.” So fighters who utilize CBD supplements for pain and stress and anxiety management should not find themselves suddenly running afoul of these new guideline modifications. UFC Drug Czar Jeff Novitzky gave a more concise declaration on the brand-new policy and how it well affect UFC fighters going forward (h/t Mixed Martial Arts Junkie).
“Numerous use it for discomfort control, anti-anxiety, to sleep, in lieu of more unsafe, more addicting drugs, so ideally this being the very first action to opening that up so that a professional athlete on Wednesday night of battle week rather of going to a Vicodin due to the fact that their knee hurts and they can’t sleep can use a little bit of marijuana and get to sleep and have that discomfort control.
In Addition, speaking with ESPN, Novitzky kept in mind that for a professional athlete to contravene of USADA regulations now, from cannabis use, would “most likely require visual signs if the professional athlete shows up at an event stumbling, smelling like cannabis, eyes bloodshot, things like that,” adding that he has actually never seen a fighter in 6 years with the UFC who would have fulfilled that criteria.
For those rare fighters that do end up running into the rehabilitation program side of things, how that will be handled stays to be seen. Welterweight Mike Perry was pressed into a rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse by the UFC, after video emerged of the fighter attacking patrons at a restaurant in Texas.
Following USADA’s lead, ESPN’s Marc Raimondi reports that the California State Athletic Commission will also be easing their policies around in-competition drug tests for Cannabis. While they won’t be removing penalties entirely, it appears the commission will now just institute a minor fine and will not seek to reverse bout outcomes.
Fighters who test favorable in California face a $100 fine and no suspension.– Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) January 14, 2021
Ultimately, all of this is excellent news for fighters and combat fans. There’s truly no factor that the UFC, USADA, or athletic commissions need to be associated with policing leisure drug use at the cost of athlete privacy and sporting results. Ideally this most current policy modification from the world’s biggest Mixed Martial Arts promotion will push commissions throughout the country to do the same, and put the days of fighters losing wins and win rewards due to cannabis far behind us.