After testing positive for cannabis metabolites during competition for the third time, Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) UFC fighter and mixed martial artist Nick Diaz was penalized Monday with a potentially career-ending suspension from competitive fighting for five consecutive years as well as a $165,000 fine.
According to reports, there are three tests that were obtained from Diaz – two tested negative, but one tested positive for cannabis. The negative tests, administered pre-fight and post-fight, were analyzed by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City. The positive test was collected and analyzed using dissimilar techniques and administered between the clean ones by Quest Diagnostics.
Diaz, a medical marijuana patient in the state of California, first tested positive in 2007 and was given a six month suspension. His second failed test was in 2012 and resulted in a year long suspension.
Technically, Diaz’s medical marijuana use is allowed in Nevada under state law. Nevada has been a legal medical cannabis state since 2000 and distribution points are allowed and operational in the state. Home cultivation of up to 12 plants is allowed as well as personal possession of up to 2.5 ounces. Interestingly, Nevada cannabis regulations recognize other medical marijuana state’s laws under a reciprocity clause.
The argument in support of the suspension is a universal rule for competitive fighters ranging from mixed martial arts to boxing to abstain from illegal substance use. The NSAC has rules prohibiting illegal drugs, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, but including medical cannabis raises many questions. Should the NSAC’s prohibitive stance on cannabis use be revisited and potentially redefined or should gaming and athletic commissioners take state laws into consideration? If medical use of cannabis is allowed in the state of Nevada and the state recognizes other states’ medical cannabis laws, should state-regulated athletics recognize the medical use of cannabis for its athletes?
Cannabinoids are antioxidants and neuroprotectants. Neuroprotective qualities of any kind are incredibly important to full contact athletes – especially MMA fighters. The level of brute strength and expertise skill sets of the combatants cause consistent traumas during each competition to both contestants. Fighters experience a broad range of short term and long term effects during their lifetimes. The most concerning damage is not from a single fight, but over time with the accumulative effect of repeated traumas over a career.
The National Football League (NFL) has recently been made aware of the concerning issue of players suffering degenerative neurological disorders such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as Dementia Pugilistica. This is a multi-symptomatic syndrome often associated with career boxers who receive concussive and subconcussive blows to the cranium. Unlike boxing, in an MMA fight knees and feet are weapons and fighters continue to pummel opponents long after they’ve collapsed to the mat.
Perhaps the NSAC should take a moment to reconsider its stance on cannabis in regards to sports with high levels of aggressive of physical contact. The commissioners should take into consideration the positive impacts cannabis has been proven to have on physical and mental health instead of making Nick Diaz the poster child for polarization over cannabis within and outside the MMA community.
Are you an athlete that uses cannabis? Tell us about it in the comments.