When the Nevada Athletic Commission slammed UFC fighter Nick Diaz with a $165,000 fine and whopping five-year suspension for testing positive for cannabis in a 2015 drug test, it seemed the benign — but too oft-maligned — plant had won no friends in the field of professional fighting.
Less than two full years later, however, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency appears to have changed its tune — drastically — especially considering draconian federal marijuana prohibition has yet to be lifted.
UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping called attention to the apparent shift in policy while discussing cannabis use among athletes — in particular, Nate and Nick Diaz.
Since being forced from competition in the UFC — where the welterweight last fought Anderson Silva in a no-contest bout — Diaz turned to triathlons to satisfy his athletic goals.
And he hasn’t stopped using cannabis — a recent video of the fighter casually sharing a joint with another athlete prior to the start of a triathlon shows Diaz’ attitude toward the plant matches the prevailing national sentiment.
Referencing that video, Bisping had some advice to the former UFC fighter — advice that could mean bouts in his future, even if he continues smoking pot.
“You are allowed to smoke weed, if you choose to. You are allowed to smoke weed outside of competition,” Bisping explained. “The way it works with USADA is you have in competition and out of competition. In competition, it’s twelve hours before the fight and 12 hours after, or until you have been seen by a doctor or have given a urine or blood sample.”
If so, Diaz and other cannabis-ingesting UFC fighters would be able to rejoin competition without being forced to set weed aside. That would be welcome news, given the government agency dictating strict anti-drug policy to ensure fair competition has yet to explain how cannabis could possibly improve performance.
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Indeed, UFC champion Ronda Rousey came out in vocal support of Diaz at the time of his suspension, in part due to the inanity of drug-testing for a substance making no perceptible difference in competition.
“It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. It has nothing to do with athletic competition; it’s only tested for political reasons. They say, ‘It’s only for your safety to keep you from hurting yourself because you’re out there.’ You know what, then why don’t they test for all the other things that could possibly hurt us that we could be under the influence of while we’re out there?”
Such common sense is not often present in governmental policy — particularly not drug policy — as The Free Thought Projectpointed out at the time of Diaz’ suspension,
“In August, [Anderson] Silva tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and he received a mere one-year suspension. Diaz tests positive for a plant, and he gets five years.”
Don’t look for logic in that glaring disparity — veritable proof positive the drug issue is political in nature — you won’t find it.
“It’s so unfair. If one person tests for steroids, that could actually hurt a person, and the other person smokes a plant that makes them happy, and he gets suspended for five years, where the guy that could have hurt someone so much that he could’ve died in there gets a slap on the wrist. It’s not fair. It’s not fair at all [...]
“It doesn’t make me a bad person for saying it. I can’t believe it’s not being said more. Yeah, I think they really should free Nick Diaz.”
She added passionately, “I don’t think that marijuana should be part of the conversation at all. I think it’s an invasion of privacy for them to test for it and they have no right.”
If what Bisping describes — the alleged sweeping change to policy in the USADA — acts as a compromise to bring sensibility, fairness, and compassion to strict policy on doping, then perhaps Diaz will be allowed to return to UFC fighting.
If not, however, it appears the athlete has found a cannabis-friendly home in triathlon competition.