Marijuana over the years has continued to prove its medicinal value so much so that 36 states and counting have legalized medicinal marijuana usage. While the states have seen the provable benefits for therapeutic usage, the world of sports always seems to be a step or two behind acceptance of the scientific community in the adaptation of their ruleset to coincide with what is acceptable for the general public, which would also include professional athletes.
Earlier this afternoon The Florida State Boxing Commission headed by Executive Director Patrick Cunningham, held discussions during their public meeting to discuss the subject of marijuana testing and penalties for combat sports athletes, which includes both boxers and mixed martial arts fighters.
The commission brought in UFC Vice-President of Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky to give his expertise on the subject. Novitzky has been in charge of the UFC’s drug programs for the last 6 years, after serving in a similar role for the United States as a federal agent investigating steroids in professional, and Olympic sports. Novitzky has been at the forefront of many high-profile investigations involving such well-known names as Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, and of course Lance Armstrong.
During the meeting, Novitzky basically shared WADA’s (World Anti-Doping Associations) and the UFC’s (Ultimate Fighting Championship) take, and rules regarding the testing and penalty phase for athletes that may test positive for THC/marijuana in the UFC which has all their testing overseen by the United States Anti-Doping Agency(USADA).
The threshold that has been widely accepted over the years was that when a drug test was administered pre, or post-fight and an athlete had 150 nanograms or more per liter of urine of THC in their system that athlete would not be allowed to compete, or could have a win possibly overturned as a result of said testing. This caused some fighters to lose money for doping violations. Even though marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, athletes were being penalized and labeled as violators of drug policy when many were using marijuana in lieu of taking some schedule one narcotics to deal with pain, recovery, and anxiety, which we should all be happy that they were seeking natural remedies rather than possibly becoming addicted to narcotics. The UFC has recently taken THC/Marijuana off their banned substances list. They still test for it, but will not suspend, or penalize athletes that test above the 150ng threshold.
After a lengthy discussion amongst the members of the commission and the experts brought in, the Florida commission voted unanimously to adapt their rules and take marijuana off the banned substances list, regardless of how many nanograms may be present in an athlete’s testing sample. This rule change is something that is long overdue and will be a sigh of relief to athletes competing in Florida once they all are made aware of the change.
With this ruling, make no mistake this does not mean athletes can walk into a venue stoned out of their minds to compete. The onus of seeing if an athlete is “high” will fall now upon those in attendance such as the state-appointed inspectors assigned to work an event, and the ringside physicians in attendance as well. In other words, when an athlete shows up to compete, the state is going to rely on those folks to detect whether an athlete is impaired, which if we are being honest, isn’t something you need a medical degree to do. If someone is “stoned” it is usually more than obvious to detect by sight. I know I can spot someone that is stoned in 3 seconds, and so can most of us. Also, the doctors at ringside can do quick neurological testing to judge if said athlete’s reaction times are slowed, because of impairment and then decide on the spot if said athlete presents a danger to themselves or their opponent. If ruled impaired, or stoned by either a doctor or inspector, said athlete will not be allowed to compete, and could still possibly face sanctions by the commission.
Professional fighters spend countless amounts of hours, days, weeks, and years of their lives training to be able to compete at the highest level of their profession. The abuse of their bodies both physically, and mentally is something that regular people truly have no idea of. Many use THC to aid in recovery, deal with both pre/post-fight anxiety, and most of all pain management. Using marijuana over hard pain pills to deal with pain is something that we should all try to do whenever possible. I am glad that the commission here in Florida is no longer going to hinder the athletes that compete in their state from using THC/Marijuana, which is the healthier, and right choice for all involved.
Christopher James has been in the MMA industry for 15 years, Working as a ring announcer for promotions like the XFC, Island Fights, Combat Night and Fight Nights Global during his career. Chris’ love for the sport and the athletes that partake in it led him to writing and doing face to face interviews with the athletes he admired and respected. Chris isn’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, he has his own style, and takes pride in not being a “cookie-cutter” member of the media. Unique and sometimes controversial takes are what he brings to the table, forcing folks to think a little differently about the world of MMA. He also has a love for music as he has been a dj for 25 years and his love for music gets brought to the MMA world when he gets his guests to sing on his weekly show Cage Side with Christopher James which can be seen Wednesday nights on FACEBOOK LIVE, and soon via podcast.