In sports, we’re rather used to receiving morning news about our favorite athlete’s suspension due to testing officials finding traces of marijuana in their system. It’s always a bit confounding. It’s pot, not steroids. Fortunately, it seems the UFC, a sport commonly attached to more modernized policies is abandoning the marijuana hypocrisy.
The UFC, in combination with anti-doping partner USADA, removed marijuana from its list of punishable offenses. The policy is retroactive as of the first of the year. The lone caveate is in cases where USADA can prove that marijuana was used in conjunction with performance enhancement. In other words, if a UFC fighter uses marijuana to just chill, he or she should be fine.
UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told ESPN that this new policy makes proving a marijuana case unlikely. A fighter who is impaired at time of fight would violate the policy. But these cases seem, at least historically, to be few and far between. And the fighter isn’t likely to receive a suspension in such a case, rather, treatment options.
“I can’t think of one instance in any historical cases where that evidence has been there,” Novitzky said. “It would probably require visual signs if the athlete shows up at an event stumbling, smelling like marijuana, eyes bloodshot, things like that. And that’s … something you rarely, if ever, see. I certainly haven’t in my six years with the UFC.”
The UFC and USADA believe that there is no supporting science that THC showing in a blood test signals definite impairment.
“Why the hell do we care what someone did a week before, let alone a night before, when it doesn’t have any effect on their ability to fight,” Novitzky said.
Lots of fighters use marijuana for pain relief and for anti-anxiety. Let’s face it, fighting in a cage can be stressful and certainly, injurious. But it’s the implications that marijuana testing has on fans that’s an equally compelling issue. Back in March, the NFL announced a similar policy amendment. The loss of talented players in league sports cost teams wins while fans experience heartache.
“This change is designed to prioritize fighter health and safety by not punishing fighters who may need treatment for substance abuse, which may lead to a fighter being impaired and jeopardize his or her safety in the Octagon,” the USADA release said.