United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), charged with drug testing the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster before, during, and after each mixed martial arts (MMA) event, will no longer punish athletes who test positive for marijuana, assuming there are no signs of visible impairment on fight night.
In short: Do what you need to do during camp, just don't show up to the arena high.
“When I get those calls weeks out from a fight, fighters that use marijuana say ‘Jeff, when should I stop to make sure I’m under the level?’” UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting. “What some of those stories include are ‘I choose to use marijuana in lieu of opioids for pain management, in lieu of Xanax to control my anxiety, in lieu of Ambien so I can sleep because I’m so damn nervous before a fight.’ It bothered me a lot that the rules in anti-doping really directs these fighters towards more dangerous drugs, the closer they get to fights.”
Anti-anxiety medication is popular among combat sports athletes, including former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. And ex-light heavyweight titleholder Forrest Griffin has been open about his Xanax use to help battle sleepless nights before fights.
“Because things like certain opioids, Xanax and Ambien are allowed at all times,” Novitzky continued. “They aren’t prohibited. I felt horrible passing that information along to fighters saying, ‘Get off the marijuana but you’re good taking Xanax, Ambien and Vicodin before a fight.’ It’s not right. Certainly, I don’t think there’s any argument that while we prefer our fighters use no drugs, on the scale of danger, on the scale of addiction, marijuana is much lower on the list than things like opioids, Xanax, Ambien.”
That will no doubt be a welcome change for athletes competing in regions where UFC self regulates, but it should be noted that marijuana remains a banned substance with most stateside athletic commissions, including Nevada.
Just ask Bevon Lewis, who was suspended six months and fined $1,345.36 during yesterday’s NSAC hearing in Las Vegas for a positive urine sample collected prior to his Trevin Giles loss last November in “Sin City.”
Hopefully USADA can help some of these other commission follow suit.