A recent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) conference resulted in rational changes to the policy around recreational drugs, or as WADA labels them “substances of abuse." Historically, Cannabinoids (cannabis, hashish, THC, etc), Narcotics (heroin, Fentanyl, Morphine, etc), and Stimulants (Cocaine, MDMA, DMA, etc) have not been prohibited out of competition, but have generally been prohibited during the in-competition window.
However, under the newly ratified policy, if an athlete can demonstrate that the use was out of competition and was not intended for the purposes of performance enhancement, the penalties are notably reduced, potentially to as low as nothing.
“During the extensive two-year review process for the 2021 version of the World Anti-Doping Code, we received considerable stakeholder feedback related to substances of abuse, such as cocaine or cannabis. It was felt that the use of these drugs was often unrelated to sport performance,” explained WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald to Cycling Weekly. “While the code does not prohibit the use of these drugs out of competition, sometimes a presence is detected at an in-competition test even though the use occurred in a social context with no effect. It was felt also that in cases where an athlete has a drug problem and is not seeking or benefiting from performance enhancement, the priority should be on the athlete’s health rather than on imposing a lengthy sporting sanction.”
USADA immediately instituted the changes into the UFC/USADA Anti-Doping Policy (“ADP”), which now reads:
“When a violation of Articles 2.1 or 2.2 involves a Substance of Abuse and the Athlete can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the violation did not enhance, and was not intended to enhance, the Athlete’s performance in a Bout, then, the period of Ineligibility may be reduced or eliminated, as determined by USADA in its sole discretion based upon the Athlete’s participation in a rehabilitation program.”
Fighters still may be subject to sanction from State, Tribal, Provincial, and Municipal athletic commissions, some of which are not progressive around the issue of recreational drug use.