USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) has ‘essentially’ removed marijuana as a banned substance for UFC fighters. The UFC and USADA reportedly made the revelation this Thursday.
According to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, if fighters test positive for carboxy-THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis), it won’t be regarded as a USADA violation. This rule will be applicable retroactively from January 1st, 2021.
Marijuana use in combat sports has been an intriguing topic for many years. Marijuana, in a myriad of forms, has long been used by combat sportspersons such as boxers, kickboxers, MMA fighters, etc.
The Diaz brothers, MMA legends Nick and Nate Diaz, are regarded as the biggest proponents of marijuana use in combat sports. Nick, Nate, and many other fighters have consistently asserted that the consumption of marijuana or marijuana-related products doesn’t affect one’s performances inside the MMA cage/ring.
Many in the fight game believe that marijuana shouldn’t be a banned PED (Performance Enhancing Drug), and athletes must not receive suspensions or fines after testing positive for marijuana.
On that note, a few excerpts from Marc Raimondi’s report read as follows:
“Beginning retroactively Jan. 1, a positive drug test for carboxy-THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, will no longer be considered a violation – unless USADA is able to prove that an athlete intentionally used it for performance-enhancing purposes, according to a news release.”
Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s senior vice president of athlete health and performance, has addressed this change. Novitzky explained that this change has ‘essentially’ removed marijuana sanctions completely. In simple terms, if USADA wants to hand the fighter a suspension or fine for testing positive for marijuana, they would have to prove that the fighter was benefitting from marijuana usage. Jeff Novitzky stated:
“It would probably require visual signs if the athlete shows up at an event stumbling, smelling like marijuana, eyes bloodshot, things like that.”
Furthermore, Jeff Novitzky pointed out that such cases of fighters being severely impaired due to marijuana are rare in the UFC. Novitzky added that even if they do come across such a case, the athlete would likely have to undergo a treatment program and won’t receive a suspension.
Athletic commissions could challenge this change brought about by the UFC and USADA
For a positive marijuana test concerning a given fight, the NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) generally hands a nine-month suspension, a fine, and overturns the fighter’s victory (if the fighter won that fight) into a no-contest. The NSAC has lately reduced this suspension period to six months or less.
Moreover, the CSAC (California State Athletic Commission) has lately been fining fighters $100 and not imposing any other sanction on them for positive marijuana tests. How the athletic commissions respond to USADA changes in partnership with the UFC will unravel as we move forward in 2021. Novitzky is expecting commissions to ease up in this regard ‘within the next year or so’.
Published 15 Jan 2021, 04:54 IST