Time for change? Fighters are needlessly failing drug tests for marijuana, while certain states allow its recreational use

Dustin Bradford

Mixed martial arts (MMA) and marijuana have a love-hate relationship. The recent smattering of failed drug tests, and forward-thinking moves by certain states, it might be high time athletic commissions seriously consider the way in which they regulate the drug.

Mixed martial artists (MMA) are allowed to utilize testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) with proper approval from a state athletic commission, but cannot smoke marijuana prior to a bout.

See anything wrong with this? I do.

Recently, two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters have had wins overturned because of failed drug tests, Jessica Eye and Yancy Medeiros. And quite frankly, it's offpoint. This is not the first instance of a fighter's post-fight screening coming back positive for marijuana metabolites and surely won't be the last.

States like Colorado and Washington -- which aren't home to many MMA events -- have already passed laws legalizing the use of the plant to those over age 21. And places like California have a program in place that allows those with a medical recommendation to legally possess herb.

Athletic commissions are in need of updating their policies regarding marijuana and how they regulate its use by fighters in comparison to other medically-approved therapies. The aforementioned sanctioning bodies must also create a uniform punishment scale that doesn't vary from situation to situation and from state to state.

Steps in the right direction have been made, with UFC raising the testing threshold for marijuana metabolites set at 150 ng/mL. On top of this, UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Marc Ratner has asked the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) Steroid and Drug Testing Advisory Panel to re-evaluate current testing regiments.

The issue's prevalence is a testament to how often fighters are, in fact, lighting up. Indeed, with the amount of fighters (and coaches) continuing to toke regardless of the convoluted circumstances, state athletic commissions have an opportunity to be at the forefront of a hot-button, and seemingly harmless, issue.

But, chances are great, just like with scoring problems, eye pokes, and knees to a grounded opponent, the much-maligned governing bodies will resist change.

Meanwhile, less-stigmatized performance-enhancing therapies such as TRT will continue to get rubber-stamped.

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