In the wake of Nick Diaz testing positive (again) for marijuana use the debate surrounding whether or not pot should be considered a performance enhancing drug has sprung back up. While not weighed as heavily as certain banned substances, like steroids, a fighter with THC in his/her system is still subject to a fine and lengthy suspension. However, many would argue even that is too severe a penalty for a drug providing effects few would see as beneficial to an athlete’s career.
They would be wrong, as there are a handful of reasons marijuana should be policed as a means of avoiding any fighter receiving a chemically-based competitive advantage over another.
Using Diaz as the example, bear in mind he wasn’t blazing up backstage before his fight with Carlos Condit at UFC 143. It occurred in the time preceding their pairing with him quitting a little over a week out in order to sweat any lingering traces out, a process he’s publicly admitted to doing in the past but obviously failed to achieve this time around. If you think he wasn’t smoking pot during the build up before beating B.J. Penn you’re kidding yourself. He just slipped up this time around in terms of cleaning out his system.
The Hollywood image of marijuana users as goofy stoners is a caricature of the real thing with countless successful individuals inhaling on a regular basis. Diaz is among them, though unfortunately he’s in a profession where it doesn’t mesh with policy. The reality is smoking pot affects people differently. While it may make some users lethargic or incoherent it eases anxiety for others, allowing them to focus on a certain task rather than the worries of the world. It can also numb the body, serving as a painkiller, and improves appetite.
Without question those are all characteristics showing why rolling a joint after rolling in a gi could be beneficial to a fighter, especially Diaz whose dislike of media-related obligations and the circus surrounding MMA is well-documented. With the spotlight on him for UFC 143 and Primetime cameras around there’s no doubt he was feeling more overwhelmed than normal, a prime reason in itself for him to need the escape weed provides.
For those reasons I have no problem with the way athletic commissions test for or penalize marijuana use. I also am okay with fighters smoking it, as there are tons of drugs that have similar effects and are permissible. The only difference is legality. It’s a shame Diaz couldn’t play right this time and it will cost him a lot of money based on missed time. It will also cost fans the pleasure of seeing him in the cage. But it’s not the wrong call based on the rules of the game.
What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!