For years I have been advocating that cannabis should be removed as a banned substance for in competition use. Not that fighters should be allowed to compete while impaired but rather that the way in competition failures are tested for are divorced from reality and often identify only lawful out of competition use. Testing for indicia of impairment, rather than cannabis metabolites after the bout has taken place, would be a better way to address the interests at play.
In a breath of fresh news the UFC’s private anti doping partner, USADA, has modified their practices doing exactly this.
Today MMAJunkie reports that in competition cannabis detection will no longer be considered a doping policy violation for UFC athletes under this program “unless additional evidence exists that an athlete used it intentionally for performance-enhancing purposes.”
Instead athletes will be screened for suspected impairment via visual evidence and cognitive behavioral tests to make sure a person is not stepping into the cage while compromised.
It is important to note that this development does not protect fighters from consequences by an overseeing athletic commission, but for UFC self regulated events this is a big step in the right direction.
MMAJunkie’s John Morgan reports as follows:
In short, positive tests for carboxy-THC, regardless of levels, will no longer be considered violations to the policy “unless additional evidence exists that an athlete used it intentionally for performance-enhancing purposes.”
“While we want to continue to prevent athletes from competing under the influence of marijuana, we have learned that blood and/or urine levels of carboxy-THC have little-to-no scientific correlation to impairment,” UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said in a statement. “THC is fat soluble, meaning that once ingested, it is stored in fatty tissues and organs in the body and can be released back into the blood or urine, sometimes long after ingestion.”
Novitzky said athletes will still not be allowed to compete under the influence of marijuana, but that the UFC and USADA will rely on visual evidence of impairment and cognitive behavioral tests to make such determinations rather that any sort of blood level detection, which can often indicate usage well outside of the competition window.
“The bottom line is that in regards to marijuana, we care about what an athlete consumed the day of a fight, not days or weeks before a fight, which has often been the case in our historic positive THC cases,” Novitzky said.