Nate Diaz, UFC & Cannabis

Jan 06 2017 0 Comments

Diaz went toe to toe with adversary Conor McGregor at the recent UFC 202. He lost. But it was his post-fight press conference, rather than his in-ring performance, that caused a stir.

He took a beating in the Octagon as Conor McGregor gained his revenge at UFC 202, but it was the aftermath that could have Nate Diaz with an entirely different fight on his hands.

Battered and bruised, Diaz sat in front of the gathered press to answer their questions. And as he did, he inhaled from a CBD (cannabidiol) oil vaporizer.

The reporters could apparently smell the marijuana, but even if they couldn’t, Diaz was quite blatant in his use of the vape pen. When questioned about what it contained, he explained that it was CBD (one of the 113 active cannabinoids present in cannabis), which is believed to have certain medical benefits.

Diaz explained to the media: “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”

What Is the UFC’s Stance on Cannabis?

In short, the UFC does not allow marijuana use by its fighters during the “in-competition” period, which is six hours before and after a fight.

The company can suspend fighters for up to one year for using cannabis, and according to sources within the world of MMA, the UFC would view Diaz’s press conference vape session – held within that six hour window after his fight – as tantamount to a failed drug test.

And the potential ramifications don’t end there; as the bout took place in Las Vegas, the Nevada State Athletic Commission could also get involved by issuing an additional punishment.

Meanwhile, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which helps the UFC with its drug-testing program, has said that it is acutely aware of the situation and is currently gathering information to determine the next appropriate steps.

A Family Affair

Interestingly, Nate’s older brother Nick, a seasoned and decorated MMA fighter in his own right, was unable to be present in his sibling’s corner for the fight as he is currently serving a cannabis-related penalty levied by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Nick received a five-year ban in late 2015 after multiple positive tests for marijuana. This was subsequently reduced to 18 months, plus a hefty $100k fine, in January of this year.

Sport & Cannabis

This isn’t the first time cannabis has elicited such a reaction in the world of sport. In August of this year, the Dallas Cowboys’ running back, Ezekiel Elliott, was spotted browsing a Seattle weed shop when his team was in town to face the Seahawks.

Despite the fact that he apparently did not make a purchase while in the shop, it still became something of a hot topic for gossip columns across the States. Marijuana is, of course, legal in Washington State, but it is firmly outlawed by the NFL. Testing positive for it can, just as in the UFC, result in a suspension.

So why the uproar over cannabis use in sport and, specifically, the possible Nate Diaz suspension?

Well, first, it’s important to understand the USADA’s position on marijuana. According to them, the in-competition use of marijuana is banned as it may present possible health risks to the athletes. Additionally, the USADA believes the drug could potentially contain performance-enhancing components.

Their official line is one of protecting the athletes and retaining a level playing field. But why are athletes – ranging from hard-tackling football players to heavy-hitting MMA fighters – opting to use it in the first place?

It would appear that the idea that it enhances performance is not one shared by the performers. Rather, they use it as a natural pain reliever and to aid in their recovery. Recent research points to signs that it is much less addictive and harmful than the opioid pain medications currently used to treat the pain and discomfort suffered by athletes, and high-impact athletes in particular.

It is believed that medicinal cannabis (high in CBD and low in THC) can be used to relieve pain and tackle inflammation while also reducing nausea and muscle spasms and aiding in relaxation and recovery.

While the health benefits are there to be debated, one thing is for sure: opioid use and abuse is a real concern for the world of sport. Overdosing can lead to serious organ damage and even death, and that risk is present in an arena where the focus is on pushing oneself to be the very best.

Challenging the Nate Diaz Suspension

It’s clear that Nate Diaz hasn’t made things easy for himself. The precedent of his brother being suspended for a similar offense will likely count against him, and that classic foe of every well-meaning celebrity, social media, has reared its ugly head too.

Prior to the fight, Diaz posted a promotional photo for TRU Vape Oil on his official Instagram account. Mixed in amongst the CBD cartridges Diaz claims to use were hybrid and THC oils. Even if he was true to his word that he exclusively vapes CBD, by promoting the psychoactive THC cartridges, he is at best harming his credibility and at worst completely incriminating himself.

What’s more, the USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) do not recognize a difference between the use of CBD and THC oil.

There does exist, however, a sliver of hope in challenging the suspension. If it can be proven that the CBD cartridges were sourced from legal hemp plants rather than the federally illegal THC-producing cannabis plants, then Diaz might be able to make a case that his CBD use was nothing more than therapeutic.

By doing so, he could take the lead in effecting real change in the world of sport and beyond. If non-government organizations, such as the USADA and WADA, were open to the debate, and more athletes came forward to advocate for the use of medical marijuana and CBD oil, then there could be the opportunity to banish harmful narcotics from the sporting landscape once and for all.

And that’s a battle worth fighting.

What do you think of the Nate Diaz suspension threat? Would you welcome a debate on the use of CBD in athlete recovery and pain management? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.



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